A novel set-up to allow suctioning during direct endotracheal and fiberoptic intubation

J Clin Anesth finially published this piece. (J Clin Anesth 2011;Sep;23(6):518-9)

A novel set-up to allow suctioning during direct endotracheal and fiberoptic intubation

Scott D. Weingart MD, Associate Professor, Sabrina D. Bhagwan MD, Assistant Professor

To the Editor:

When intubating the tracheas of patients with gastrointestinal bleeding, vomiting, or copious secretions, standard suction often is inadequate to provide good intubating conditions. As soon as the suction catheter is removed and the endotracheal tube (ETT) is picked up, the liquid reaccumulates, preventing visualization of the airway structures. In these situations, we attach a neonatal meconium aspirator (Neotech Products, Inc., Valencia, CA, USA) to the end of the ETT, then connect the ETT to suction (Fig. 1). By occluding the suction-activation hole with a finger tip, the ETT becomes a large-bore suction catheter. This action allows for continuous removal of the blood/secretions throughout ETT placement and provides a clear view of the glottic structures; the patient’s trachea then is intubated with the same ETT. The trachea then may be suctioned before the meconium aspirator is disconnected.

One disadvantage of this method was that the ETT could not contain a stylet to allow for easier manipulation. We therefore devised the simple set-up, as shown in Fig. 2. This consists of the ETT attached to a common swivel adapter with a perforated rubber head (Bodai Swivel, Sontek Medical, Inc., Hingham, MA, USA). A meconium aspirator is then attached to the swivel adapter and suction. This configuration allows a styletted ETT to be used in the manner mentioned above (Fig. 3).

Fig. 2.

Swivel adapter attached to a meconium aspirator and suction.

Fig. 3.

Swivel adapter and meconium aspirator set-up, allowing for suctioning through a styletted endotracheal tube.

In the course of using this simple set-up, we realized that it may also provide a means to add suction to a number of fiberoptic stylets. One of the failings of these devices, as compared with standard intubating bronchoscopes, is the absence of a suction channel. Fig. 4 shows a Bonfils fiberscope (Karl Storz Endoscopy, Tuttlingen, Germany) with attached swivel adapter, ETT, and meconium aspirator. Depending on the model of fiberoptic scope, a small portion of the ETT will need to be removed in order for this set-up to fit; the depicted ETT was cut at 28 cm. This set-up allows suctioning during intubation and clearing of the fiberoptic camera without having to remove the scope from the mouth.

Fig. 4.

Swivel adapter and meconium aspirator set-up, allowing for suctioning during fiberscope intubation.

A potential disadvantage of this set-up is that the ETT may be soiled by the patient’s secretions. Nevertheless, we have used this set-up in many difficult airway situations and find that it offers excellent potential to improve airway visualization.

Note: We have, since publishing this piece, moved to having an assistant occlude the hole under the direction of the intubator or by watching the video laryngoscope screen to determine when suction is needed. (the latter a la R. Strayer)

You finished the 'cast,
Now get CME credit

Not a subcriber yet? Why the heck not?
By subscribing, you can...

  • Get CME hours
  • Support the show
  • Write it off on your taxes or get reimbursed by your department

Sign Up Today!


Subscribe Now

If you enjoyed this post, you will almost certainly enjoy our others. Subscribe to our email list to keep informed on all of the ED Critical Care goodness.

This Post was by , MD, published 4 years ago. We never spam; we hate spammers! Spammers probably work for the Joint Commission.


  1. says

    Neat. I’ve just raided paeds ward for the kit I need and am looking to wet test this tonight.

    Bloody brilliant, thanks!

    Tim Leeuwenburg
    Kangaroo Island, South Australia

  2. Aaron says

    If I could be so bold as to adapt your career goal to my current setting, I want to bring upstairs care out to the streets in the back of my ambulance. I am definitely going to have this set-up in the back of my box and will reccomend it to my fellow medics at the department.

    Thanks for all you do!


  3. Don Diakow says

    Ok Uber cool! Had a crew the other day who tubed a roadside cardiac arrest who had some type of pulmonary infection history. 3 secs into ventilating the patient copious amounts of blood came up the tube and they had a heck of a time keeping up with the blood with regular suction caths.Will add to the arsenal of airway management

  4. Nate Murray says

    I love this idea and have been trying to translate this into an ambulance/prehospital version (we don’t have bronc adapters on the ambulance). I’ve found that a regular stylet can be threaded through the finger opening of the meconium aspirator and the port can be occluded by threading the foam part of a mucosal atomizer over the end of the stylet. This allows the pt to be suctioned on and off at will. @MedicMurray

  5. Toby T says

    I found that using the rubber light blue stopper from the pedi glass plasma vacutainers fits perfectly into the hole to occlude, thereby allowing you to focus on holding the ET tube with continuous suction via the aspirator, in case there isn’t an extra set of hands to help.


Speak Your Mind (Along with your name, job, and affiliation)