Endotracheal tube verification in adult mechanically ventilated patients

Portia Jordan, Wilma Ten Ham, Danielle Fataar


Objective. To explore the methods that can be used to verify endotracheal tube (ETT) placement in adult mechanically ventilated patients. 

Methods. An integrative literature search was conducted in 2012 - 2013 of research citations published in English on the topic of discussion. Electronic databases searched were: the Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health (CINAHL), MEDLINE, PubMed, the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) systematic review library, the Cochrane Library and the National Guidelines Clearinghouse. In addition, reference lists of articles, conference summaries and hand searching was performed. Citations were selected based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria as decided upon by the researchers. The process of critical appraisal was done by the researchers as well as an independent reviewer, all skilled in the research methodology and subject matter related to the topic of discussion. A total of 45 articles were included for critical appraisal. On completion of the critical appraisal, which was done by two independent reviewers, 34 articles were excluded and 11 articles were included in the integrative review analyses. Data were extracted following the critical appraisal process. Owing to the heterogeneity of studies, a metasynthesis could not be done.

Results. Based on the reviewed studies, various methods have been identified to verify ETT placement in adult mechanically ventilated patients, namely ultrasonography, the use of centimetre scale printed on the ETT, manual cuff palpation, bilateral auscultation of chest and palpation of symmetrical chest movements, oesophageal detector devices, visualisation of the ETT, use of chest X-ray, pulse oximetry and capnography. Both ultrasonography and capnography had excellent sensitivity and specificity in verifying ETT placement. 

Conclusion. Although there are various methods reported for ETT verification, the review results recommended ultrasonography and capnography as the most accurate and reliable verification methods.

Authors' affiliations

Portia Jordan, School of Clinical Care Sciences, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth

Wilma Ten Ham, School of Clinical Care Sciences, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth

Danielle Fataar, School of Clinical Care Sciences, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth

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Endotracheal tube verification; critical care unit; mechanical ventilation; airway care

Cite this article

Southern African Journal of Critical Care 2015;31(1):20-23. DOI:10.7196/SAJCC.199

Article History

Date submitted: 2014-07-07
Date published: 2015-09-18

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