Declining rate of cricothyrotomy in trauma patients with an emergency medicine residency: implications for skills training

Acad Emerg Med. 1998 Mar;5(3):247-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.1998.tb02621.x.


Objective: To report the change in cricothyrotomy rate with emergency medicine (EM) residency development and to address the implications for training in this skill.

Methods: A retrospective chart review was used to determine the cricothyrotomy rate at a 1,000-bed urban Level-1 trauma center with EM, surgery, and anesthesiology residencies. All adult trauma patient visits to the ED between July 1, 1985, and June 30, 1995, were reviewed. The cricothyrotomy rate was defined as the total number of cricothyrotomies per trauma admissions during a study phase.

Results: The study period was divided into 3 phases. Phase 1 (academic years 1985-1989): prior to the inception of the EM residency; phase 2 (academic years 1990-1992): initiation and establishment of the residency; and phase 3 (academic years 1993-1994): full implementation of the EM residency. The cricothyrotoiny rate during phase 1 was 1.8% (95% CI: 1.6 to 2.0), vs 1.1% (95% CI: 0.0 to 2.8) and 0.2% (95% CI: 0.0 to 0.2) during phases 2 and 3, respectively.

Conclusions: The cricothyrotomy rate decreased with the full implementation of the EM residency. Whether this trend was an effect of the presence of an EM faculty and residency training program, a parallel approach to airway management nationwide, or another unidentified factor will require further investigation. Nonetheless, given the increasing rarity of this procedure, it is likely that many EM, surgical, and anesthesiology residents will not acquire clinical experience with this technique during training.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Cricoid Cartilage / surgery*
  • Emergencies
  • Emergency Medicine / standards
  • Emergency Medicine / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / standards
  • Internship and Residency / statistics & numerical data*
  • Intubation, Intratracheal
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thyroid Cartilage / surgery*
  • Tracheotomy / standards
  • Tracheotomy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Trauma Centers / standards
  • Trauma Centers / statistics & numerical data*