Continuous airway access for the difficult extubation: the efficacy of the airway exchange catheter

Anesth Analg. 2007 Nov;105(5):1357-62, table of contents. doi: 10.1213/01.ane.0000282826.68646.a1.


Background: The American Society of Anesthesiologists Task Force on the Management of the Difficult Airway regards the concept of an extubation strategy as a logical extension of the intubation process, although the literature does not provide a sufficient basis for evaluating the merits of an extubation strategy. Use of an airway exchange catheter (AEC) to maintain access to the airway has been reported on only a limited basis.

Methods: I reviewed an observational analysis of a prospectively collected difficult airway quality improvement database for patients who were extubated over an AEC for a known or presumed difficult airway primarily in the intensive care unit. The data were reviewed for time to reintubation, number of attempts to reintubate the trachea, method of securing the airway, incidence of hypoxemia during reintubation, and complications encountered during reestablishment of the airway.

Results: Fifty-one patients with an indwelling AEC failed their extubation trial. Forty-seven of 51 AEC patients were successfully reintubated over the AEC (92%), with 41 of 47 on the first attempt (87%). In three of the four AEC reintubation failures, the AEC was inadvertently removed from the glottis during the reintubation process, and one patient had significant laryngeal edema precluding endotracheal tube advancement.

Conclusions: Maintaining continuous access to the airway postextubation via an AEC can be an important component of an extubation strategy in selected difficult airway patients. The indwelling AEC appears to increase the first-pass success rate in patients with known or suspected difficult airways and decrease the incidence of complications in patients intolerant of extubation and requiring tracheal reintubation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Catheterization, Peripheral / instrumentation
  • Catheterization, Peripheral / methods*
  • Device Removal / instrumentation
  • Device Removal / methods*
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / instrumentation
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / methods*
  • Respiration, Artificial / instrumentation
  • Respiration, Artificial / methods*
  • Respiratory System