Bonus – Passing the Esophageal Temperature Probe

I was drinking beers with my friend Oren Friedman, a medical intensivist with an interest in hypothermia; we got to talking about how it can be a b*tch to pass the esophageal temperature probe for hypothermia. I had recorded some footage for our hypothermia video a while back on how to get er done.
Here is the reference mentioned:
Appukutty J, Shroff PP. Anesth Analg. 2009 Sep;109(3):832-5. Nasogastric tube insertion using different techniques in anesthetized patients: a prospective, randomized study.

Update: This new article adds a bougie to get the tube down the esophagus

Endotracheal tube-assisted orogastric tube insertion in intubated patients in an emergency department Oh. Sung Kwon, M.D.


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  1. Duncan says

    Is nasopharyngeal temp probe the next best thing if esophageal temp probe isn’t available for purpose of therapeutic hypothermia?

    • says

      Nope, nasopharyngeal is pretty useless. If you have a rectal prbe, then you have an esophageal probe; I have never seen one that is not for both sites. Just make sure you don’t go from rectal to esophageal without a probe change in between. If you had neither of these, bladder is the next best.

  2. Casey says

    Hi Scott,
    I use the same technique to get in the orogastric in the trauma patient. My only other tip is to use the scardest / most highly strung student / juniour MO you can find to do the “intubation” – 100% guaranteed to get ti in the oesopagus!!

  3. Vik says

    Hey Scott,

    At our hospital at Christiana – where you just recently visited – we actually use a temp foley. Your (or others) thoughts on that?

    – Vik – one of the residents at lunch

    • says

      so you can strip it off of the probe, otherwise the connecter end of the temp probe or the back of your ng tube prevents the ET tube from being pulled off the probe

  4. Anthony Morales says

    How do measure the distance of the esophageal temperature probe? Tip of mouth to 2cm above the xyphoid or tip of mouth to ear to 2cm above the Xyphoid?

  5. Matt Christensen says

    What is the knife that you use to split the ETT? I wouldn’t mind having one of those for use in the ED!

  6. says

    A couple years ago we replaced our firm, moldable NG tubes with shitty limp ones that resemble esophageal temperature probes; often difficult to insert. Since then I’ve been using a similar method:

    1. Cut an ETT lengthwise. I don’t carry a rescue hook so I use a scalpel, works much better than scissors/shears.

    2. Perform laryngoscopy.

    3. Place a bougie in the esophagus.

    4. Railroad split ETT over bougie. Remove bougie.

    5. Insert least expensive NGT in the world into ETT.

    6. Withdraw ETT to end of NGT, then shed ETT using split.

    This method gives residents practice doing laryngoscopy in an already-intubated patient, so they can take their time and build muscle memory, practice using the bougie, and is much faster than the usual struggle, with NGT coiling in mouth, xrays that show no NGT in the stomach, etc.


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