The incidence and risk factors for cardiac arrest during emergency tracheal intubation: a justification for incorporating the ASA Guidelines in the remote location

J Clin Anesth. 2004 Nov;16(7):508-16. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinane.2004.01.007.


Study objective: To determine the incidence and etiology of cardiopulmonary arrest during emergency intubation in the remote location by comparing two periods (1990-1995 vs. 1995-2002) at the same institution to assess whether immediate access to advanced airway devices and endotracheal tube-verifying devices altered the incidence of hypoxemia-driven cardiac arrest.

Design: Retrospective review of a quality improvement (QI) database for emergency intubation outside the operating room (OR).

Setting: 765-bed tertiary care, level 1 trauma center.

Patients: 3035 critically ill patients suffering from cardiopulmonary, traumatic, septic, metabolic, or neurological-based deterioration and requiring emergency airway management.

Measurements: Rate of cardiac arrest, as defined as asystole, bradycardia, or ventricular dysrhythmia with non-measurable blood pressure during or within 5 minutes of intubation, requiring cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), were measured.

Main results: 60 cardiac arrests were documented (2%, or one per 50 cases), 83% of which were associated with profound hypoxemia (oxygen saturation <70%) during the airway procedure. Esophageal intubation was a frequent complication (n = 38; 63%), often leading to hypoxemia (97%) and regurgitation (67%). The overall rate of cardiac arrest was reduced 50% between the two time periods (2.8%: 1990-1995 period and 1.4%: 1995-2002 period). The relative risk estimate for complications in a match cohort contributing to the etiology of cardiac arrest included hypoxemia (4X), regurgitation (28X), aspiration (22X), bradycardia (23X) (all P < 0.003), and esophageal intubation (7X), P < 0.04). A total of 34% patients survived less than 24 hours and 31% survived to be discharged.

Conclusion: Cardiac arrest during emergency tracheal intubation outside the OR is relatively common compared with the OR environment. Airway-related complications played a prominent role, either singly or in combination with the patient's underlying physiological state. Immediate access to advanced airway devices and endotracheal tube-verifying devices appear to have a significant impact on the incidence of hypoxemia-driven cardiac arrest.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Airway Obstruction / complications
  • Critical Illness
  • Emergency Treatment*
  • Female
  • Heart Arrest / epidemiology*
  • Heart Arrest / etiology
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / adverse effects*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires