Should EMS-paramedics perform paediatric tracheal intubation in the field?

Resuscitation. 2008 Nov;79(2):225-9. doi: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2008.05.016. Epub 2008 Aug 6.


Objective: To determine the incidence and success rate of out-of-hospital tracheal intubation (TI) and ventilation of children, taking account of the type of healthcare provider involved.

Methods: A prospective observational study to analyse a consecutive group of children for which a helicopter-transported medical team (HMT) was called. In all cases, the emergency medical service (EMS)-paramedics arrived at the scene first. Data regarding type of incident, physiological parameters, treatment, and survival until hospital discharge were collected and subsequently analysed.

Results: Of the 300 children examined and treated by the HMT on scene, 155 (52%) children required out-of-hospital tracheal intubation. Ninety-five children had an initial Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) rating of 3-4: the EMS-paramedics performed bag-valve-mask-ventilation (BVMV) until arrival with subsequent TI carried out by the HMT (54 children, survival 63%) or the EMS-paramedics performed TI themselves (41 children, subsequent correction of tube/ventilation by HMT in 37% and survival rate 5%). Two hundred and five children had an initial GCS of 5-15, from which 60 children required TI (survival rate 67%) and 145 children required no TI (survival rate 100%).

Conclusion: We do not recommend early TI by EMS-paramedics in children with a GCS of 3-4. The rate of complications of this procedure is unacceptably high. BVMV is the preferred choice for ventilation by paramedics, whenever possible. Out-of-hospital TI performed by HMT is safe and effective. The HMT has skills in advanced airway management not provided by the EMS.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Air Ambulances*
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation / instrumentation*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal*
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiration, Artificial / instrumentation*
  • Survival Rate