To breathe or not to breathe: a review of artificial airway placement and related complications

John Donatelli, Ayushi Gupta, Ramya Santhosh, Todd R. Hazelton, Leelakrishna Nallamshetty, Alvaro Macias, Carlos A. Rojas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Artificial airway devices are commonly used to provide adequate ventilation and/or oxygenation in multiple clinical settings, both emergent and nonemergent. These frequently used devices include laryngeal mask airway, esophageal–tracheal combitube, endotracheal tube, and tracheostomy tube and are associated with various acute and late complications. Clinically, this may vary from mild discomfort to a potentially life-threatening situation. Radiologically, these devices and their acute and late complications have characteristic imaging findings which can be detected primarily on radiographs and computed tomography. We review appropriate positioning of these artificial airway devices and illustrate associated complications including inadequate positioning of the endotracheal tube, pulmonary aspiration, tracheal laceration or perforation, paranasal sinusitis, vocal cord paralysis, post-intubation tracheal stenosis, cuff overinflation with vascular compression, and others. Radiologists must recognize and understand the potential complications of intubation to promptly guide management and avoid long-term or even deadly consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-179
Number of pages9
JournalEmergency Radiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 17 2015


  • Airway complications
  • Artificial airway
  • Endotracheal tube
  • Esophageal intubation
  • Laryngeal mask airway
  • Tracheostomy tube

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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