Cricothyroidotomy can be performed using three techniques. This literature review seeks to determine which is more appropriate for use in prehospital can't intubate/can't ventilate scenarios where laryngeal mask airways prove ineffective. The common approach of inserting a 14-gauge cannula and using low-pressure ventilation via intermittent occlusion of an opening in oxygen tubing (15 l x min(-1) flow) results in ineffective ventilation within 60 s or less, depending on the degree of airway obstruction. In the absence of a high degree of upper airway obstruction, ventilation can be effective if the cannula is attached to a high pressure (45 psi) jet ventilator, but such devices are rare in UK prehospital practice. A self-inflating bag used with a cuffed tube inserted through a horizontal scalpel incision provides sustained adequate ventilation, has a relatively low complication rate compared to needle cricothyroidotomy and is a skill that can be easily taught to paramedics, nurses and doctors.