Survey of airway skills of surgeons in Western Australia

Anaesth Intensive Care. 2009 Jul;37(4):630-3. doi: 10.1177/0310057X0903700406.


Our objective was to survey all consultant surgeons, including obstetricians/gynaecologists, in the State of Western Australia to assess their experience with, and readiness to assist anaesthetists with a difficult or failed airway. Survey questionnaires were mailed to all surgeons registered in Western Australia (n = 445). A total of 238 responses (53%) were received, mostly from general surgeons, obstetrician/gynaecologists and orthopaedic surgeons. Forty percent had provided non-surgical assistance with a difficult airway and 60% had assisted with a surgical airway. All ear nose and throat surgeons who responded to the survey had assisted with an emergency surgical airway and 47 surgeons reported having performed six or more surgical airways. However 26% of respondents had never performed a surgical airway and 37% did not feel confident in performing an urgent surgical airway Seven percent of respondents reported witnessing a failed airway that resulted in death or neurological damage. Seventy percent of respondents had undergone formal training in tracheostomy and 26% had advanced trauma life support or early management of severe trauma training. These findings indicate that surgeons in Western Australia perform surgical airways infrequently and only occasionally assist anaesthetists with difficult airway management. However, some surgeons lack confidence and training in surgical airway management. Because anaesthetists cannot always rely on their surgical colleagues to provide a surgical airway during a crisis, we recommend that anaesthetists discuss airway management with their surgical colleagues for all patients with identified difficult airways and that anaesthesia training should include surgical airway management.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Emergencies
  • General Surgery*
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tracheostomy