Emergency cricothyrotomy-a comparative study of different techniques in human cadavers

Resuscitation. 2009 Feb;80(2):204-9. doi: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2008.10.023. Epub 2008 Dec 5.


Background: Emergency cricothyrotomy is the final lifesaving option in "cannot intubate-cannot ventilate" situations. Fast, efficient and safe management is indispensable to reestablish oxygenation, thus the quickest, most reliable and safest technique should be used. Several cricothyrotomy techniques exist, which can be grouped into two categories: anatomical-surgical and puncture.

Methods: We studied success rate, tracheal tube insertion time and complications of different techniques, including a novel cricothyrotomy scissors technique in human cadavers. Sixty-three inexperienced health care providers were randomly assigned to apply either an anatomical-surgical technique (standard surgical technique, n=18; novel cricothyrotomy scissors technique, n=14) or a puncture technique (catheter-over-needle technique, n=17; wire-guided technique, n=14).

Results: Airway access was almost always successful with the anatomical-surgical techniques (success rate in standard surgical group 94%, scissors group 100%). In contrast, the success rate was smaller (p<0.05) with the puncture techniques (catheter-over-needle group 82%, wire-guided technique 71%). Tracheal tube insertion time was faster overall (p<0.05) with anatomical-surgical techniques (standard surgical 78s [54-135], novel cricothyrotomy scissors technique 60s [42-82]; median [IQR]) than with puncture techniques (catheter-over-needle technique 74s [48-145], wire-guided technique 135s [116-307]). We observed fewer complications with anatomical-surgical techniques than with puncture techniques (p<0.001).

Conclusions: In inexperienced health care personnel, anatomical-surgical techniques showed a higher success rate, a faster tracheal tube insertion time and a lower complication rate compared with puncture techniques, suggesting that they may be the techniques of choice in emergencies.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cadaver
  • Clinical Competence
  • Cricoid Cartilage / surgery*
  • Emergency Treatment*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal
  • Male
  • Students, Medical
  • Surgical Instruments
  • Time Factors
  • Tracheotomy / methods*
  • Young Adult