Laryngeal mask airways have a lower risk of airway complications compared with endotracheal intubation: a systematic review

J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2010 Oct;68(10):2359-76. doi: 10.1016/j.joms.2010.04.017. Epub 2010 Jul 31.


Purpose: The purpose of the present study was to determine whether, in patients undergoing general anesthesia, those provided with a laryngeal mask airway (LMA) have a lower risk of airway-related complications than those undergoing endotracheal intubation.

Materials and methods: A systematic review of randomized prospective controlled trials was done to compare the risk of airway complications with an LMA versus an endotracheal tube (ETT) in patients receiving general anesthesia. Two independent reviewers identified 29 randomized prospective controlled trials that met the predetermined inclusion and exclusion criteria. The data for each individual outcome measure were combined to analyze the relative risk ratios (RRs). The Cochrane RevMan software was used for statistical analysis.

Results: When an ETT was used to protect the airway, a statistically significant greater incidence of hoarse voice (RR 2.59, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.55 to 4.34), a greater incidence of laryngospasm during emergence (RR 3.16, 95% CI 1.38 to 7.21), a greater incidence of coughing (RR 7.12, 95% CI 4.28 to 11.84), and a greater incidence of sore throat (RR 1.67, 95% CI 1.33 to 2.11) was found compared with when an LMA was used to protect the airway. The differences in the risk of regurgitation (RR 0.84, 95% CI 0.27 to 2.59), vomiting (RR 1.56, 95% CI 0.74 to 3.26), nausea (RR 1.59, 95% CI 0.91 to 2.78), and the success of insertion on the first attempt (RR 1.08, 95% CI 0.99 to 1.18) were not statistically significant between the 2 groups.

Conclusions: For the patients receiving general anesthesia, the use of the LMA resulted in a statistically and clinically significant lower incidence of laryngospasm during emergence, postoperative hoarse voice, and coughing than when using an ETT. The risk of aspiration could not be determined because only 1 study reported a single case of aspiration, which was in the group using the ETT.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Airway Obstruction / prevention & control*
  • Anesthesia, Dental / instrumentation
  • Anesthesia, Dental / methods*
  • Anesthesia, General / instrumentation
  • Anesthesia, General / methods*
  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Complications / prevention & control
  • Intubation, Intratracheal*
  • Laryngeal Masks*
  • Laryngismus / prevention & control
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk
  • Surgery, Oral / methods