Objective: Assess the risk of complications during endotracheal intubation (ETI) and their association with the skill level of the intubating physician.
Design: Prospective cohort study of 136 patients intubated by the intensive care team during a 5-month period. Standardized data forms were used to collect detailed information on the intubating physicians, supervisors, techniques, medications and complications.
Setting: Canadian academic intensive care unit.
Measurements and results: All intubations were successful and there were no deaths during intubation. Non-experts were supervised in 92% of procedures. Expert operators were successful within two attempts in 94%, compared to only 82% of non-experts (P = 0.03), with 13.2% of all intubations requiring > or =3 attempts. Furthermore, 10.3% of intubations required 10 or more minutes. Difficult intubation (3 or more attempts by an expert) occurred in 6.6%. Overall risk of complications was 39%, including: severe hypoxemia (19.1%), severe hypotension (9.6%), esophageal intubation (7.4%) and frank aspiration (5.9%). ICU and hospital mortality were 15.4 and 29.4%, respectively. Compared with non-expert intubating physicians, propensity score-adjusted odds ratios (95% confidence interval) for expert physicians were 0.92 (95% CI: 0.28, 3.05, P = 0.89) for any complication, 0.45 (95% CI: 0.09, 2.20, P = 0.32) for ICU mortality and 0.47 (95% CI: 0.13, 1.70, P = 0.25) for hospital mortality. Two or more attempts at ETI was independently associated with an increased risk of severe complications (OR 3.31, 95% CI: 1.30, 8.40, P = 0.01).
Conclusions: These prospective data show a high risk of serious complications, and difficult intubations, that are associated with ETI of the critically ill.
Descriptor: Artificial airways and complications.