3,423 emergency tracheal intubations at a university hospital: airway outcomes and complications

Anesthesiology. 2011 Jan;114(1):42-8. doi: 10.1097/ALN.0b013e318201c415.


Background: There are limited outcome data regarding emergent nonoperative intubation. The current study was undertaken with a large observational dataset to evaluate the incidence of difficult intubation and complication rates and to determine predictors of complications in this setting.

Methods: Adult nonoperating room emergent intubations at our tertiary care institution from December 5, 2001 to July 6, 2009 were reviewed. Prospectively defined data points included time of day, location, attending physician presence, number of attempts, direct laryngoscopy view, adjuvant use, medications, and complications. At our institution, a senior resident with at least 24 months of anesthesia training is the first responder for all emergent airway requests. The primary outcome was a composite airway complication variable that included aspiration, esophageal intubation, dental injury, or pneumothorax.

Results: A total of 3,423 emergent nonoperating room airway management cases were identified. The incidence of difficult intubation was 10.3%. Complications occurred in 4.2%: aspiration, 2.8%; esophageal intubation, 1.3%; dental injury, 0.2%; and pneumothorax, 0.1%. A bougie introducer was used in 12.4% of cases. Among 2,284 intubations performed by residents, independent predictors of the composite complication outcome were as follows: three or more intubation attempts (odds ratio, 6.7; 95% CI, 3.2-14.2), grade III or IV view (odds ratio, 1.9; 95% CI, 1.1-3.5), general care floor location (odds ratio, 1.9; 95% CI, 1.2-3.0), and emergency department location (odds ratio, 4.7; 95% CI, 1.1-20.4).

Conclusions: During emergent nonoperative intubation, specific clinical situations are associated with an increased risk of airway complication and may provide a starting point for allocation of experienced first responders.

MeSH terms

  • Causality
  • Comorbidity
  • Emergency Medical Services / methods*
  • Emergency Medical Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Hospitals, University / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / adverse effects
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / methods*
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / statistics & numerical data*
  • Laryngopharyngeal Reflux / epidemiology
  • Laryngopharyngeal Reflux / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pneumothorax / epidemiology
  • Pneumothorax / etiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Tooth Injuries / epidemiology
  • Tooth Injuries / etiology
  • Treatment Outcome