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Year : 2013  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 492-493

Breathing circuit obstruction: An unusual case

Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India

Correspondence Address:
Divya Jain
Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1658-354X.121076

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Date of Web Publication7-Nov-2013

How to cite this article:
Jain D, Bala I. Breathing circuit obstruction: An unusual case. Saudi J Anaesth 2013;7:492-3

How to cite this URL:
Jain D, Bala I. Breathing circuit obstruction: An unusual case. Saudi J Anaesth [serial online] 2013 [cited 2022 Aug 10];7:492-3. Available from:


Errors in medical practice are not an uncommon occurrence. These can be either due to the machine failure or human failure. [1] Such errors can be catastrophic, if timely appropriate corrective steps not instituted. Nowadays, the newer anesthesia work-stations are equipped with sensors to monitor the spiromtory functions of anesthetized patients. These sensors are attached on the patient's end of the ventilator tubings, proximal to the patient's airway. We report a case of respiratory obstruction due to the presence of an unusual foreign body on the reusable D-lite TM spirometer sensor of the Datex Omeda monitor.

Following induction of anesthesia, the airway of the patient was secured with 8.5 mm ID cuffed endotracheal tube. On connecting the ventilator circuit, it was observed that the patient's chest was not moving. There were no breath sounds on auscultation. The peak pressures rose to 40-42 cm of H 2 O and the arterial oxygen saturation of the patient dropped to 85%. The ventilator circuit was immediately replaced with the Bains coaxial circuit and the Fio 2 increased to 100%. The patient could then be ventilated easily. There was increased in the arterial saturation and the peak pressures dropped to the normal limits. The rest of the surgery went uneventful.

On closer inspection of the ventilator circuit, it was detected that a piece of the plastic wrapping of the D-lite sensor was left in between the sensor and the ventilator circuit which was causing the obstruction [Figure 1]. This small piece of wrapping was not visible from outside, which led to this mishap [Figure 2].

Earlier, obstructions in the ventilator circuit due to blocked heat and moisture exchanging filters (HMEF), faulty equipment or unusual foreign bodies like plastic wrappings have been reported leading to anesthetic mishaps. [2],[3],[4] Such obstructions in the ventilator circuit can mimic a condition of pnemothorax, silent chest, or severe bronchospasm. [5] Reporting of such critical events, re-emphasizes the need to check all the parts of anesthesia equipment before use to prevent the occurrence of these anesthetic mishaps in future.
Figure 1: Plastic wrapping causing breathing circuit obstruction

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Figure 2: Plastic wrapping unnoticed from outside

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  References Top

1.Cooper JB, Newbower RS, Long CD, McPeek B. Preventable anesthesia mishaps: A study of human factors. 1978. Qual Saf Health Care 2002;11:277-82.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Chacon AC, Kuczkowski KM, Sanchez RA. Unusual case of breathing circuit obstruction: Plastic packaging revisited. Anesthesiology 2004;100:753.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Feingold A. Letter: Carbon dioxide absorber packaging hazard. Anesthesiology 1976;45:260.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Casta A, Houck CS. Acute intraoperative endotracheal tube obstruction associated with a heat and moisture exchanger in an infant. Anesth Analg 1997;84:939-40.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Yang CH, Chen KH, Lee YE, Lin CR. Anesthetic breathing circuit obstruction mimicking severe bronchospasm: An unusual manufacturing defect. Acta Anaesthesiol Taiwan 2012;50:35-7.  Back to cited text no. 5


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]


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