Tracheal Size Variability is Associated with Sex: Implications for Endotracheal Tube Selection

Arunabha Karmakar, Mariah B. Pate, Nancy L. Solowski, Gregory N. Postma, Paul M. Weinberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Purpose: Whereas selection of endotracheal tube (ETT) size in pediatric patients benefits from predictive nomograms, adult ETT sizing is relatively arbitrary. We sought to determine associations between cervical tracheal cross-sectional area (CTCSA) and clinical variables. Methods: One hundred thirty-two consecutive patients undergoing noncontrasted chest computed tomography (CT) at a single tertiary care institution from January 2010 to June 2011 were reviewed. Patients with improper CT technique, endotracheal intubation, and pulmonary/tracheal pathology were excluded. Tracheal luminal diameters in anteroposterior (D1) and transverse (D2) were measured 2 cm inferior to the cricoid and used to determine CTCSA = π∗D1∗D2∗1/4. The demographic variables of age, height, weight, and body mass index (BMI) were tested for association with CTCSA by Spearman correlation. Wilcoxon rank-sum test was used to compare CTCSA by race and sex. Multivariate linear regression was performed including all clinical variables. Results: There were 91 patients who met inclusion criteria. There was no correlation between age, weight, or BMI and CTCSA. There was a significant positive correlation between patient height and CTCSA (P =.001, R = 0.35); however, this was confounded by sex. Female patients had significantly smaller CTCSA (mean = 241 mm2) compared to male patients (mean = 349 mm2, P <.001). Multivariate linear regression stratified by sex revealed that height is correlated with CTCSA only in males (P =.028). Males also had more variability in CTCSA (SD 118.6) compared to females (SD 65.5). Conclusion: Our data suggest that selection of ETT size in male patients should include height as a predictive factor. For female patients, it may be appropriate to select a uniformly smaller diameter ETT size.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)132-136
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015


  • airway management
  • intratracheal intubation
  • trachea
  • tracheal stenosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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