A case of respiratory failure in a domestic fire victim presenting with 1-3-degree skin burns on 10% of the total body surface, is reported. Forty-eight hours after admission to hospital, the patient developed severe respiratory failure that did not respond to mechanical ventilation. Severe obstruction of the airway had resulted from secretions and deposits of soot-forming bronchial casts. The patient required repeated bronchoscopies to separate and remove the bronchial secretions and soot deposits. An emergency bronchial endoscopic exam was crucial in the patient’s survival and management. The patient was discharged from the hospital after twenty-four days.
Introduction: Tracheal diverticulum has been associated with problems during endotracheal intubation but there are no reports concerning air leakage around an endotracheal tube (ETT).
Case report: The case of an elderly woman under mechanical ventilatory support because an exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is reported. She presented with an inexplicably air leak around the endotracheal tube not attributed to structural defects. The intra-cuff pressure value was as high as 30 mmHg to prevent an air leakage. Bronchoscopy revealed a tracheal diverticulum at the site ofthe tube cuff that allowed air leakage around it. The problem was overcome by re-intubating the patient with a larger diameter tube and positioning its distal end above the diverticular opening.
Discussion: Endotracheal tube air leak is a frequently neglected problem. COPD and other inflammatory conditions are associated with changes in the elastic properties of the airways resulting in tracheomegaly or acquired tracheal diverticulum. Both entities have been linked to problems during intubation or ventilation of patients. However tracheal diverticulum has not been described previously as a cause of air leakage.
Conclusion: Acquired tracheal diverticulum should be recognized as a cause of air leakage in the intubated patient, especially if associated with a normal or elevated intracuff pressure.