Background: Effective airway management is the cornerstone of resuscitative efforts for any critically ill or injured patient. The role and safety of pediatric prehospital intubation is controversial, particularly after prior research has shown varying degrees of intubation success. We report a series of consecutive prehospital pediatric intubations performed by air-transport providers.
Methods: We retrospectively reviewed intubation flight records from an 89-rotorcraft, multistate emergency flight service during the time period from January 1, 2007, to December 31, 2009. All patients younger than 15 years were included in our analysis. We characterized patient, flight, and operator demographics; intubation methods; success rates; rescue techniques; and adverse events with descriptive statistics. We report proportions with 95% confidence intervals and differences between groups with Fisher exact and χ tests; P < 0.05 was considered significant.
Results: Two hundred sixty pediatric intubations were performed consisting of 88 medical (33.8%) and 172 trauma (66.2%) cases; 98.8% (n = 257) underwent an orotracheal intubation attempt as the first method. First-pass intubation success was 78.6% (n = 202), and intubation was ultimately successful in 95.7% (n = 246) of cases. Medical and trauma intubations had similar success rates (98% vs 95%, Fisher exact test P = 0.3412). There was no difference in intubation success between age groups (χ = 0.26, P = 0.88). Three patients were managed primarily with an extraglottic device. Rescue techniques were used in 11 encounters (4.2%), all of which were successful. Cricothyrotomy was performed twice, both successful.
Conclusions: Prehospital pediatric intubation performed by air-transport providers, using rapid sequence intubation protocols, is highly successful. This effect on patient outcome requires further study.