Rapid-sequence intubation: a review of the process and considerations when choosing medications

Ann Pharmacother. 2014 Jan;48(1):62-76. doi: 10.1177/1060028013510488. Epub 2013 Nov 4.


Objective: To summarize published data regarding the steps of rapid-sequence intubation (RSI); review premedications, induction agents, neuromuscular blockers (NMB), and studies supporting use or avoidance; and discuss the benefits and deficits of combinations of induction agents and NMBs used when drug shortages occur.

Data source: A search of Medline databases (1966-October 2013) was conducted.

Study selection and data extraction: Databases were searched using the terms rapid-sequence intubation, fentanyl, midazolam, atropine, lidocaine, phenylephrine, ketamine, propofol, etomidate thiopental, succinylcholine, vecuronium, atracurium, and rocuronium. Citations from publications were reviewed for additional references.

Data synthesis: Data were reviewed to support the use or avoidance of premedications, induction agents, and paralytics and combinations to consider when drug shortages occur.

Conclusions: RSI is used to secure a definitive airway in often uncooperative, nonfasted, unstable, and/or critically ill patients. Choosing the appropriate premedication, induction drug, and paralytic will maximize the success of tracheal intubation and minimize complications.

Keywords: etomidate; induction agents; ketamine; neuromuscular blockers; premedications; propofol; rapid-sequence intubation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / supply & distribution
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / supply & distribution
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / therapeutic use
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / methods*
  • Neuromuscular Blocking Agents / supply & distribution
  • Neuromuscular Blocking Agents / therapeutic use


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Neuromuscular Blocking Agents