Objective: To perform a systematic review and meta-analysis of the literature on teaching airway management using technology-enhanced simulation.
Data sources: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, ERIC, Web of Science, and Scopus for eligible articles through May 11, 2011.
Study selection: Observational or controlled trials instructing medical professionals in direct or fiberoptic intubation, surgical airway, and/or supraglottic airway using technology-enhanced simulation were included. Two reviewers determined eligibility.
Data extraction: Study quality, instructional design, and outcome data were abstracted independently and in duplicate.
Data synthesis: Of 10,904 articles screened, 76 studies were included (n = 5,226 participants). We used random effects meta-analysis to pool results. In comparison with no intervention, simulation training was associated with improved outcomes for knowledge (standardized mean difference, 0.77 [95% CI, 0.19-1.35]; n = 7 studies) and skill (1.01 [0.68-1.34]; n = 28) but not for behavior (0.52 [-0.30 to 1.34]; n = 4) or patient outcomes (-0.12 [-0.41 to 0.16]; n = 4). In comparison with nonsimulation interventions, simulation training was associated with increased learner satisfaction (0.54 [0.37-0.71]; n = 2), improved skills (0.64 [0.12-1.16]; n = 5), and patient outcomes (0.86 [0.12-1.59]; n = 3) but not knowledge (0.29 [-0.28 to 0.86]; n = 4). We found few comparative effectiveness studies exploring how to optimize the use of simulation-based training, and these revealed inconsistent results. For example, animal models were found superior to manikins in one study (p = 0.004) using outcome of task speed but inferior in another study in terms of skill ratings (p = 0.02). Five studies comparing simulators of high versus low technical sophistication found no significant difference in skill outcomes (p > 0.31). Limitations of this review include heterogeneity (I2 > 50% for most analysis) and variation in quality among primary studies.
Conclusions: Simulation-based airway management curriculum is superior to no intervention and nonsimulation intervention for important education outcomes. Further research is required to fine-tune optimal curricular design.