Purpose of review: This review is a clinical comparison between double-lumen endotracheal tubes and bronchial blockers to determine which device is considered the best for lung isolation.
Recent findings: Double-lumen endotracheal tubes and bronchial blockers have been found to be clinically equivalent in terms of performance in providing lung collapse for patients with normal airways. In the last five years, however, numerous reports have indicated a preference for the use of bronchial blockers in patients with airway abnormalities. For nonthoracic anesthesiologists who have limited experience in thoracic anesthesia cases, none of the devices (double-lumen tubes or bronchial blockers) have been shown to provide any advantage while in use due to a high incidence of unrecognized malpositions. Overall, each device provides advantages depending upon the case, such as absolute lung separation with a double-lumen endotracheal tube or the use of a bronchial blocker in a difficult airway for a patient requiring lung isolation.
Summary: Double-lumen endotracheal tubes and bronchial blockers should be part of the armamentarium of every anesthesiologist involved in lung isolation techniques and every device should be tailored to specific case needs.