Emergency Subglottic Airway Training and Assessment of Skills Retention of Attending Anesthesiologists With Simulation Mastery-Based Learning

Anesth Analg. 2022 Jul 1;135(1):143-151. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000005928. Epub 2022 Feb 10.


Background: Although included within the American Society of Anesthesiologists difficult airway algorithm, the use of "invasive airway access" is rarely needed clinically. In conjunction with highly associated morbidity and liability risks, it is a challenge for the average anesthesiologist to develop and maintain competency. The advancement of high-fidelity simulators allows for practice of rarely encountered clinical scenarios, specifically those requiring invasive subglottic airway techniques.

Methods: Sixty board-certified academic anesthesiologists were enrolled and trained in dyads in a simulation-based, mastery-based learning (MBL) course directed at 2 emergency airway subglottic techniques: transtracheal jet ventilation (TTJV) and bougie cricothyrotomy (BC). Performance metrics included: pretest, posttest, specific skill step error tracking, and 15-month period retest. All were pretested and trained once on the Melker cricothyrotomy (MC) kit. All pretest assessment, training, posttesting, and 15-month retesting were performed by a single expert clinical and educational airway management faculty member.

Results: Initial testing showed a success rate of 14.8% for TTJV, 19.7% for BC, and 25% for MC. After mastery-based practice, all anesthesiologists achieved successful invasive airway placement with TTJV, BC, and MC. Repeated performance of each skill improved speed with zero safety breaches. BC was noted to be the fastest performed technique. Fifteen months later, retesting showed that 80.4% and 82.6% performed successful airway securement for TTJV and BC, respectively. For safety, average placement time and costs, MC was discarded after initial training results.

Conclusions: We discovered that only ~20% of practicing anesthesiologists were able to successfully place an invasive airway in a simulated life or death clinical setting. Using mobile simulation (training performed in department conference room) during a 2.5-hour session using mastery-based training pedagogy, we increased our success rate of invasive airway placement to 100%, while also increasing the successful speed to ventilation (TTJV, 32 seconds average; BC, 29 seconds average). Finally, we determined that there was a 15-month 80% retention rate of the airway skills learned, indicating that skills last at least a year before retraining is required using this training methodology.

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesiologists*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / methods
  • Simulation Training*