Multicenter Comparison of Nonsupine Versus Supine Positioning During Intubation in the Emergency Department: A National Emergency Airway Registry (NEAR) Study

Acad Emerg Med. 2019 Oct;26(10):1144-1151. doi: 10.1111/acem.13805. Epub 2019 Jun 25.


Objective: Head-up positioning for preoxygenation and ramping for morbidly obese patients are well-accepted techniques, but the effect of head-up positioning with full torso elevation for all intubations is controversial. We compared first-pass success, adverse events, and glottic view between supine (SP) and nonsupine (NSP) positioning for emergency department (ED) patients undergoing orotracheal intubation.

Methods: We performed a retrospective analysis of prospectively collected data for ED intubations over a 2-year period from 25 participating centers in the National Emergency Airway Registry (NEAR). We compared characteristics and outcomes for adult patients intubated orotracheally in SP and NSP positions with either a direct or video laryngoscope. We report odds ratios (OR) with 95% confidence interval (CI) for categorical variables and interquartile ranges with 95% CI for continuous variables. Our primary outcome was first-attempt intubation success and secondary outcomes were glottic views and peri-intubation adverse events.

Results: Of 11,480 total intubations, 5.8% were performed in NSP. The NSP group included significantly more obese patients (OR = 2.2 [95% CI = 1.9-2.6]) and patients with a suspected difficult airway (OR = 1.8 [95% CI = 1.6-2.2]). First-pass success (adjusted OR = 1.1 [95% CI = 0.9-1.4]) and overall rate of grade I glottic views (OR = 1.1 [95% CI = 0.9-1.2]) were similar between groups while NSP had a significantly higher rate of grade I views when direct laryngoscopy was employed (OR = 1.27 [95% CI = 1.04-1.54]). NSP was associated with higher odds of any adverse event (OR = 1.4 [95% CI = 1.1-1.7]).

Conclusions: ED providers utilized SP in most ED intubations but were more likely to use NSP for patients who were obese or in whom they predicted a difficult airway. We found no differences in first-pass success between groups but total adverse events were more likely in NSP. A randomized trial comparing patient positioning during intubation in the ED is warranted.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / adverse effects
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / methods*
  • Laryngoscopy / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Patient Positioning / adverse effects
  • Patient Positioning / methods*
  • Registries
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Supine Position*
  • Thoracic Surgery, Video-Assisted / instrumentation