Tracheotomy is occasionally performed to prevent postoperative airway obstruction especially for invasive surgical procedures involving head and neck cancer. When performed under general anesthesia, attention must be paid to avoid rupture of the tracheal tube cuff during the incision into the trachea. In this study, changes in the position of the endotracheal tube tip during extension of the head and neck for a tracheotomy were investigated. Twelve patients underwent placement of a tracheotomy during surgical procedures for oral cancer. After nasal intubation, the distance between the tube tip and the carina was measuring using a fiberoptic scope with the patient's head placed at an angle of 110°. Patients were repositioned for tracheotomy by placing a pillow under the shoulders and extending the head and neck at an angle of 140°. The distance measurements were subsequently repeated. The difference between the first and second measurements was calculated and analyzed statistically using a paired t test. On average the patients were 69.5 ± 9.0 years in age. The distance between the tube tip and the carina at an angle of 140° (3.6 ± 1.1 cm) was significantly longer than that at an angle of 110° (1.7 ± 1.0 cm) (p < 0.001). The migration in the positioning of the endotracheal tube tip was 1.9 ± 0.7 cm (range: 0.7-3.7 cm) upon extension. In 3 cases, the tube cuff was ruptured during incision of the trachea. The endotracheal tube tip may migrate in the cephalad direction approximately 2 cm as a result of the extension of the patient's head and neck during a tracheotomy. Therefore, consideration should be given to advancing the endotracheal tube tip towards the caudal side and to confirming the position of the tube and cuff during a tracheotomy.
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