Objective: To evaluate orotracheal intubation with in-line stabilization of the cervical spine for emergency airway treatment of trauma patients with cervical spine injuries.
Design: Of 7518 trauma patients examined, 81 patients with cervical spine injuries received emergency orotracheal intubation. All intubations were performed by experienced anesthesiologists, with a separate individual maintaining in-line stabilization. Neurologic examination was documented before and after intubation.
Results: Peripheral neurologic deficit was present from the outset in 20 patients. There were unstable cervical fractures in 38 patients with no neurologic deficit. Twenty-three patients were neurologically intact with fractures that were later judged stable. In no instance was there a deterioration of neurologic status following intubation. Peripheral neurologic deficits improved after intubation in four patients.
Conclusion: Orotracheal intubation, performed with manual in-line stabilization by trained and experienced personnel, is a safe emergency procedure in patients with cervical fractures.