Pre-hospital intubation is associated with increased mortality after traumatic brain injury

J Surg Res. 2011 Sep;170(1):e117-21. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2011.04.005. Epub 2011 May 4.


Background: Early endotracheal intubation in patients sustaining moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) is considered the standard of care. Yet the benefit of pre-hospital intubation (PHI) in patients with TBI is questionable. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between pre-hospital endotracheal intubation and mortality in patients with isolated moderate to severe TBI.

Methods: The Los Angeles County Trauma System Database was queried for all patients > 14 y of age with isolated moderate to severe TBI admitted between 2005 and 2009. The study population was then stratified into two groups: those patients requiring intubation in the field (PHI group) and those patients with delayed airway management (No-PHI group). Demographic characteristics and outcomes were compared between groups. Multivariate analysis was used to determine the relationship between pre-hospital endotracheal intubation and mortality.

Results: A total of 2549 patients were analyzed and then stratified into the two groups: PHI and No-PHI. There was a significant difference noted in overall mortality (90.2% versus 12.4%), with the PHI group being more likely to succumb to their injuries. After adjusting for possible confounding factors, multivariable logistic regression analysis demonstrated that PHI was independently associated with increased mortality (AOR 5, 95% CI: 1.7-13.7, P = 0.004).

Conclusions: Pre-hospital endotracheal intubation in isolated, moderate to severe TBI patients is associated with a nearly 5-fold increase in mortality. Further prospective studies are required to establish guidelines for optimal pre-hospital management of this critically injured patient population.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Injuries / mortality
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / mortality
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies