Prehospital airway management: A prospective case study

Acta Anaesthesiol Belg. 2011;62(1):23-31.


We conducted a one-year prospective study involving a prehospital Emergency Medical Service in the Netherlands to investigate the incidence of failed or difficult prehospital endotracheal intubation. During the study period the paramedics were asked to fill in a registration questionnaire after every endotracheal intubation. Of the 26,271 patient contacts, 256 endotracheal intubations were performed by paramedics in one year. Endotracheal intubation failed in 12 patients (4.8%). In 12.0% of 249 patients, a Cormack and Lehane grade III laryngoscopy was reported and a grade IV laryngoscopy was reported in 10.4%. The average number of endotracheal intubations per paramedic in one year was 4.2 and varied from zero to a maximum of 12. The median time between arrival on the scene and a positive capnograph was 7 min.38 s in the case of a Cormack and Lehane grade I laryngoscopy and 14 min.58 s in the case of a Cormack and Lehane grade 4 laryngoscopy. The incidence of endotracheal intubations performed by Dutch paramedics in one year was low, but endotracheal intubation was successful in 95.2%, which is comparable with findings in international literature. Early capnography should be used consistently in prehospital airway management.

MeSH terms

  • Airway Management
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / statistics & numerical data*
  • Laryngoscopy
  • Prospective Studies