BACKGROUND: There is no consensus on the best technique for lung isolation for thoracic surgery. In this study, we compared the clinical performance of three bronchial blockers (BBs) available in North America with left-sided double-lumen tubes (DLTs) for lung isolation in patients undergoing left-sided thoracic surgery.

METHODS: One hundred four patients undergoing left-sided thoracotomy or video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery were randomly assigned to one of the four lung isolation groups (n = 26/group). Lung isolation was with an Arndt(R) wire-guided BB (Cook(R) Critical Care, Bloomington, IN), a Cohen Flexi-tip(R) BB (Cook Critical Care) or a Fuji Uni-blocker(R) (Fuji Systems, Tokyo) or with a left-sided DLT (Mallinckrodt Medical, Cornamadde, Athlone, Westmeath, Ireland). Anesthetic management and lung isolation were performed according to a standardized protocol. Each group was randomly subdivided into two subgroups (n = 13/subgroup): immediate suction (at the time of insertion of the lung isolation device) (Subgroup I) or delayed suction (20 min after insertion of the lung separation device) (Subgroup D) according to when suction was applied to the BB suction channel or the bronchial lumen of the DLT. Using a verbal analog scale, lung collapse was assessed by the surgeons, who were blinded to the lung isolation technique.

RESULTS: There was no difference among the lung isolation devices in lung collapse scores at 0 (P = 0.66), 10 (P = 0.78), or 20 min (P = 0.51) after pleural opening. The time to initial lung isolation was less for DLTs (93 +/- 62 s) than BBs (203 +/- 132) (P = 0.0001). There were no differences among the BBs in the time to lung isolation (P = 0.78). There were significantly more repositions after initial placement of the lung isolation device with BBs (35 incidents) than with DLTs (two incidents) (P = 0.009). The Arndt BB required repositioning more frequently (16 incidents) than the Cohen BB (8) or the Fuji BB (11) (P = 0.032).

CONCLUSIONS: The three BBs provided equivalent surgical exposure to left-sided DLTs during left-sided open or video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery thoracic procedures. BBs required longer to position and required intraoperative repositioning more often. The Arndt BB needed to be repositioned more often than the other BBs.