Current practices and safety of medication use during rapid sequence intubation

J Crit Care. 2018 Jun:45:65-70. doi: 10.1016/j.jcrc.2018.01.017. Epub 2018 Mar 23.


Purpose: Characterize medication practices during and immediately after rapid sequence intubation (RSI) by provider/location and evaluate adverse drug events.

Materials and methods: This was a multicenter, observational, cross-sectional study of adult and pediatric intensive care unit and emergency department patients over a 24-h period surrounding first intubation.

Results: A total of 404 patients from 34 geographically diverse institutions were included (mean age 58 ± 22 years, males 59%, pediatric 8%). During RSI, 21%, 87%, and 77% received pre-induction, induction, and paralysis, respectively. Significant differences in medication use by provider type were seen. Etomidate was administered to 58% with sepsis, but was not associated with adrenal insufficiency. Ketamine was associated with hypotension post-RSI [RR = 1.78 (1.36-2.35)] and use was low with traumatic brain injury/stroke (1.5%). Succinylcholine was given to 67% of patients with baseline bradycardia and was significantly associated with bradycardia post-RSI [RR = 1.81 (1.11-2.94)]. An additional 13% given succinylcholine had contraindications. Sedation practices post-RSI were not consistent with current practice guidelines and most receiving a non-depolarizing paralytic did not receive adequate sedation post-RSI.

Conclusions: Medication practices during RSI vary amongst provider and medications are often used inappropriately. There is opportunity for optimization of medication use during RSI.

Keywords: Adverse effects; Emergency department; Intensive Care Unit (ICU); Medications; Rapid sequence intubation (RSI).

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Emergency Treatment*
  • Etomidate / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence*
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / administration & dosage*
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / methods*
  • Ketamine / administration & dosage
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Succinylcholine / administration & dosage


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Ketamine
  • Succinylcholine
  • Etomidate