Background: Securing the airway with supraglottic airway devices, such as a laryngeal tube, is a regular component of most difficult airway management algorithms. It is further recommended that in emergency medicine rescuers less skilled in endotracheal intubation should use supraglottic airways as a first line device. Exchanging the laryngeal tube with an endotracheal tube can be performed with video-assisted laryngoscopy as described below.
Material and methods: A total of 20 adult patients with airways managed using laryngeal tubes due to actual or anticipated difficult intubation underwent endotracheal intubation using the C-MAC videolaryngoscope. After deflating the cuffs of the laryngeal tube, seeking out the glottis was done by following the constructional landmarks of the laryngeal tube, considering concordance with anatomical landmarks of the human airway. In cases of failed video-assisted endotracheal intubation, the laryngeal tube that was still in situ was reinflated to re-establish ventilation of the lungs.
Results: In 19 out of the 20 patients the laryngeal tube could be exchanged for an endotracheal tube with the video-assisted technique described. In one patient no laryngeal structures could be identified (Cormack and Lehane grade IV) even with the C-MAC videolaryngoscope and ventilation was continued via the laryngeal tube. No complications related to the video-assisted intubation technique were observed.
Conclusions: The C-MAC videolaryngoscope is a mobile system which facilitates endotracheal intubation in patients with a difficult airway and a laryngeal tube in place. It is not only possible but recommended to leave the laryngeal tube in situ as a back-up when videolaryngoscopy fails.