Success of Intubation Rescue Techniques after Failed Direct Laryngoscopy in Adults: A Retrospective Comparative Analysis from the Multicenter Perioperative Outcomes Group

Anesthesiology. 2016 Oct;125(4):656-66. doi: 10.1097/ALN.0000000000001267.


Background: Multiple attempts at tracheal intubation are associated with mortality, and successful rescue requires a structured plan. However, there remains a paucity of data to guide the choice of intubation rescue technique after failed initial direct laryngoscopy. The authors studied a large perioperative database to determine success rates for commonly used intubation rescue techniques.

Methods: Using a retrospective, observational, comparative design, the authors analyzed records from seven academic centers within the Multicenter Perioperative Outcomes Group between 2004 and 2013. The primary outcome was the comparative success rate for five commonly used techniques to achieve successful tracheal intubation after failed direct laryngoscopy: (1) video laryngoscopy, (2) flexible fiberoptic intubation, (3) supraglottic airway as part of an exchange technique, (4) optical stylet, and (5) lighted stylet.

Results: A total of 346,861 cases were identified that involved attempted tracheal intubation. A total of 1,009 anesthesia providers managed 1,427 cases of failed direct laryngoscopy followed by subsequent intubation attempts (n = 1,619) that employed one of the five studied intubation rescue techniques. The use of video laryngoscopy resulted in a significantly higher success rate (92%; 95% CI, 90 to 93) than other techniques: supraglottic airway conduit (78%; 95% CI, 68 to 86), flexible bronchoscopic intubation (78%; 95% CI, 71 to 83), lighted stylet (77%; 95% CI, 69 to 83), and optical stylet (67%; 95% CI, 35 to 88). Providers most frequently choose video laryngoscopy (predominantly GlideScope [Verathon, USA]) to rescue failed direct laryngoscopy (1,122/1,619; 69%), and its use has increased during the study period.

Conclusions: Video laryngoscopy is associated with a high rescue intubation success rate and is more commonly used than other rescue techniques.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Equipment Design
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal*
  • Laryngoscopy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Perioperative Care / methods*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Failure