The cuff pilot balloon is one of the safety features of the ETT, which has received some attention from the examiners. More on this topic is written elsewhere. Suffice to say, this little bubble is a goldmine of information; however, paradoxically, what it doesn't tell you is the cuff pressure. Ample evidence exists to suggest that senior anaesthetists, veteran ED doctors and practicing paramedics can neither generate nor estimate cuff pressures using the pilot balloon.
Causes of a "zero" cuff pressure reading
- The cuff has ruptured
- The pilot balloon tube has been chewed through
- The balloon inflation lumen is occluded. Ventilation parameters are eerily stable in spite of a "zero" reading.