Effects of cervical spine immobilization technique and laryngoscope blade selection on an unstable cervical spine in a cadaver model of intubation

Ann Emerg Med. 2000 Oct;36(4):293-300. doi: 10.1067/mem.2000.109442.


Study objective: Orotracheal intubation (OTI) is commonly used to establish a definitive airway in major trauma victims, with several different cervical spine immobilization techniques and laryngoscope blade types used. This experimental, randomized, crossover trial evaluated the effects of manual in-line stabilization and cervical collar immobilization and 3 different laryngoscope blades on cervical spine movement during OTI in a cadaver model of cervical spine injury.

Methods: A complete C5-C6 transection was performed by using an osteotome on 14 fresh-frozen cadavers. OTI was performed in a randomized crossover fashion by using both immobilization techniques and each of 3 laryngoscope blades: the Miller straight blade, the Macintosh curved blade, and the Corazelli-London-McCoy hinged blade. Intubations were recorded in real time on fluoroscopy and then transferred to video and color still images. Outcome measures included movement across C5-C6 with regard to angulation expressed in degrees of rotation and axial distraction and anteroposterior displacement with values expressed as a proportion of C5 body width. Cormack-Lehane visualization grades were also recorded as a secondary outcome measure. Data were analyzed by using multivariate analysis of variance to test for differences between immobilization techniques and between laryngoscope blades and to detect for interactions. Significance was assumed for P values of less than.05.

Results: Manual in-line stabilization resulted in significantly less movement than cervical collar immobilization during OTI with regard to anteroposterior displacement. Use of the Miller straight blade resulted in significantly less movement than each of the other 2 blades with regard to axial distraction. The Cormack-Lehane grade was significantly better with manual in-line stabilization versus cervical collar immobilization; no differences were observed between blades.

Conclusion: Manual in-line stabilization results in less cervical subluxation and allows better vocal cord visualization during OTI in a cadaver model of cervical spine injury. The Miller laryngoscope blade allowed less axial distraction than the Macintosh or Corzelli-London-McCoy blades. The clinical significance of this degree of movement is unclear.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cadaver
  • Cervical Vertebrae
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Humans
  • Immobilization
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / instrumentation*
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / methods*
  • Laryngoscopes*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Spinal Injuries*