Emergency cricothyroidotomy in trauma victims

J Trauma. 1993 Apr;34(4):503-5. doi: 10.1097/00005373-199304000-00006.


The first dictum of trauma care is to establish an airway. Infrequently endotracheal intubation is unsuccessful or contraindicated, and a surgical airway is required. We reviewed 30 emergency cricothyroidotomies among 8320 admissions over a 36-month period at a level I trauma center. Twenty cricothyroidotomies were performed in the emergency room by Trauma Service personnel and 10 during prehospital care by flight nurses. Cricothyroidotomy was the first airway control maneuver performed in 7 patients and 23 cricothyroidotomies were performed after attempts at oral intubation failed. No major complications were identified. Minor complications identified in the hospital included minimal subglottic stenosis (2), local wound infection (1), and nonthreatening hemorrhage (1). Fifteen patients were long-term survivors. We conclude that emergency cricothyroidotomy is a safe and rapid means of obtaining an airway when endotracheal intubation fails or is contraindicated.

MeSH terms

  • Airway Obstruction / surgery*
  • Cricoid Cartilage / surgery*
  • Emergencies
  • Humans
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thyroid Cartilage / surgery*
  • Tracheotomy
  • Wounds and Injuries / surgery*