Field trial of endotracheal intubation by basic EMTs

Ann Emerg Med. 1998 Feb;31(2):228-33.


Study objective: The 1994 basic-EMT (EMT-B) curriculum recommended teaching EMT-Bs the skill of endotracheal intubation. In this study we assessed the success and complication rates of endotracheal intubations in the field by EMT-Bs.

Methods: We conducted a prospective clinical trial over a period of 28 months in an urban out-of-hospital EMS system. Four first-responder EMT-B engine companies with paramedic backup received 10 hours; intubation training in three sessions spread over at least 2 weeks. The training module was similar to that of the 1994 EMT-B curriculum and included at least 10 intubations on manikins. The EMTs used manikins with closed chest cavities to learn assessment of endotracheal-tube placement. Patients were eligible for intubation by the EMTs if they were apneic and older than 15 years. We calculated 95% confidence interval (CIs) for intubation success rates.

Results: Sixty-six EMT-Bs passed the training examinations and were authorized to perform intubation in the field. Endotracheal intubation was attempted by EMTs in 103 patients; the attempt was successful in 53 (95% CI, 42% to 61%). All patients who were not intubated by EMT-Bs were intubated by paramedics, with the exception of six cases. One attempt at intubation was made in 52 patients, two attempts in 44, and three in 7. Three unrecognized esophageal intubations occurred.

Conclusion: EMT-Bs trained in a short course successfully intubated about half the patients they encountered in this study. This low intubation success rate calls into question the validity of the endotracheal-intubation training module in the 1994 EMT-B national curriculum.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Curriculum
  • Emergency Medical Technicians / education*
  • Female
  • Heart Arrest / therapy
  • Humans
  • Inservice Training / methods
  • Intubation, Intratracheal*
  • Male
  • Manikins
  • Middle Aged
  • Professional Competence / statistics & numerical data
  • Urban Population