Optimizing oxygenation and intubation conditions during awake fibre-optic intubation using a high-flow nasal oxygen-delivery system

Br J Anaesth. 2015 Oct;115(4):629-32. doi: 10.1093/bja/aev262. Epub 2015 Aug 7.


Background: Awake fibre-optic intubation is a widely practised technique for anticipated difficult airway management. Despite the administration of supplemental oxygen during the procedure, patients are still at risk of hypoxia because of the effects of sedation, local anaesthesia, procedural complications, and the presence of co-morbidities. Traditionally used oxygen-delivery devices are low flow, and most do not have a sufficient reservoir or allow adequate fresh gas flow to meet the patient's peak inspiratory flow rate, nor provide an adequate fractional inspired oxygen concentration to prevent desaturation should complications arise.

Methods: A prospective observational study was conducted using a high-flow humidified transnasal oxygen-delivery system during awake fibre-optic intubation in 50 patients with anticipated difficult airways.

Results: There were no episodes of desaturation or hypercapnia using the high-flow system, and in all patients the oxygen saturation improved above baseline values, despite one instance of apnoea resulting from over-sedation. All patients reported a comfortable experience using the device.

Conclusions: The high-flow nasal oxygen-delivery system improves oxygenation saturation, decreases the risk of desaturation during the procedure, and potentially, optimizes conditions for awake fibre-optic intubation. The soft nasal cannulae uniquely allow continuous oxygenation and simultaneous passage of the fibrescope and tracheal tube. The safety of the procedure may be increased, because any obstruction, hypoventilation, or periods of apnoea that may arise may be tolerated for longer, allowing more time to achieve ventilation in an optimally oxygenated patient.

Keywords: anaesthetic techniques, fibre-optic; intubation, tracheal tube; oxygen, delivery systems.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intranasal / methods*
  • Female
  • Fiber Optic Technology*
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / prevention & control
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen / administration & dosage*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Wakefulness*


  • Oxygen