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Hans J. PRIEBE
Department of Anesthesia, Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany
Deflation of the cuff of the endotracheal tube (ETT) before tracheal extubation is considered mandatory and safe practice. However, there are potential shortcomings associated with this practice (e.g., aspiration around the uncuffed ETT, loss of positive airway pressure, difficulty in generating an effective cough at the time of extubation). By contrast, keeping the cuff inflated during extubation will minimize the risk of tracheal aspiration around the ETT, and it will reliably allow maintenance of positive airway pressure until extubation, effective lung recruitment before extubation, and generation of an effective cough during extubation. All of these factors might reduce the overall risk of immediate postextubation and postoperative respiratory and pulmonary complications. Mandatory monitoring of cuff pressure ensures a remaining rather small, highly compressible cuff volume around the ETT which is unlikely to carry per se the risk of producing laryngeal trauma. In my view, as the overall advantages of not deflating the cuff before extubation outweigh the disadvantages, anesthetists should not have to deflate the cuff of the ETT before extubation. Ultimately, only a randomized controlled trial will be able to assess the effect of such practice on patient outcome.