Factors associated with the occurrence of cardiac arrest after emergency tracheal intubation in the emergency department

PLoS One. 2014 Nov 17;9(11):e112779. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0112779. eCollection 2014.


Objectives: Emergency tracheal intubation has achieved high success and low complication rates in the emergency department (ED). The objective of this study was to evaluate the incidence of post-intubation CA and determine the clinical factors associated with this complication.

Methods: A matched case-control study with a case to control ratio of 1:3 was conducted at an urban tertiary care center between January 2007 and December 2011. Critically ill adult patients requiring emergency airway management in the ED were included. The primary endpoint was post-intubation CA, defined as CA within 10 minutes after tracheal intubation. Clinical variables were compared between patients with post-intubation CA and patients without CA who were individually matched based on age, sex, and pre-existing comorbidities.

Results: Of 2,403 patients who underwent emergency tracheal intubation, 41 patients (1.7%) had a post-intubation CA within 10 minutes of the procedure. The most common initial rhythm was pulseless electrical activity (78.1%). Patients experiencing CA had higher in-hospital mortality than patients without CA (61.0% vs. 30.1%; p<0.001). Systolic hypotension prior to intubation, defined as a systolic blood pressure ≤ 90 mmHg, was independently associated with post-intubation CA (OR, 3.67 [95% CI, 1.58-8.55], p = 0.01).

Conclusion: Early post-intubation CA occurred with an approximate 2% frequency in the ED. Systolic hypotension before intubation is associated with this complication, which has potentially significant implications for clinicians at the time of intubation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Emergencies*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Heart Arrest / epidemiology*
  • Heart Arrest / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors

Grant support

These authors have no support or funding to report.