Rapid sequence intubation for pediatric emergency airway management

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2002 Dec;18(6):417-23. doi: 10.1097/00006565-200212000-00004.


Objectives: To characterize current practice with respect to pediatric emergency airway management using a multicenter data set.

Methods: A multicenter collaboration was undertaken to gather data prospectively regarding emergency intubation. Analysis of data on adult emergency department (ED) intubations clearly demonstrated that rapid sequence intubation (RSI) was the method used most often. We then conducted an observational study of the prospectively collected database of pediatric ED intubations (EDIs) using the National Emergency Airway Registry Phase One data, gathered in 11 participating EDs over a 16-month time period. A data form completed at the time of EDI enabled analysis of patients' ages, weights, and indications for EDI; personnel; methods employed to facilitate EDI; success rates; and adverse events. Data forms were analyzed regarding the methods of intubation employed, and frequencies, success rates, and adverse event rates among various intubation modalities were compared.

Results: Of 1288 EDIs, there were 156 documented pediatric patients. Initial intubation attempts were all oral, including rapid sequence intubation in 81%, without medications (NOM) in 13%, and sedation without neuromuscular blockade (SED) in 6%. Older children and trauma patients were more likely to be intubated with RSI compared to younger children and patients presenting with medical illnesses. Intubation using RSI was more successful on the first attempt (78%) compared with either NOM (47%, < 0.01) or SED (44%, < 0.05), though this finding is likely explainable by the age differences among groups. Intubation was successfully performed by the initial intubator in 85% of RSI, 75% of NOM, and 89% of SED attempts ( = NS for both comparisons vs RSI). Overall, successful intubation occurred in 99% of RSI and 97% of non-RSI intubation attempts ( = NS). Only one of 156 patients required surgical airway management. True complications occurred in 1%, 5%, and 0% of RSI, NOM, and SED attempts, respectively ( = NS for both comparisons vs RSI). The majority of initial intubation attempts were by emergency medicine residents (59%), pediatric emergency medicine fellows (17%), and pediatrics residents (10%). These groups were 77%, 77%, and 50% successful, respectively, on the first laryngoscopy attempt, and 89%, 89%, and 69% successful overall.

Conclusions: A large, prospective, multicenter observational study of pediatric EDIs was conducted at university-affiliated EDs. RSI is the method of choice for the majority of pediatric emergency intubations; it is associated with a high success rate and a low rate of serious adverse events. Pediatric intubation as practiced in academic EDs, with most initial attempts by emergency and pediatrics residents and fellows under attending physician supervision, is safe and highly successful.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Airway Obstruction / therapy*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Medicine / statistics & numerical data
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Treatment / methods*
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / therapeutic use*
  • Infant
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / methods*
  • Neuromuscular Blockade / methods
  • Neuromuscular Blocking Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Pediatrics / statistics & numerical data
  • Prospective Studies
  • United States


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Neuromuscular Blocking Agents