This prospective, nonrandomized, observational study of 76 infants with pyloric stenosis was conducted at an academic children's hospital and compared awake versus paralyzed tracheal intubation in terms of successful first attempt rate, intubation time, heart rate (HR) and arterial hemoglobin oxygen saturation (SpO2) changes, and complications. Three groups were determined by intubation method: awake (A) with an oxygen-insufflating laryngoscope, after rapid-sequence induction (R), or after modified rapid-sequence induction (M) including ventilation through cricoid pressure. Successful first attempt intubation rate was 64% for Group A versus 87% for paralyzed Groups R and M (P = 0.028). Median intubation time was 63 s in Group A versus 34 s in Groups R and M (P = 0.004). Transient, mild decreases in mean HR and SpO2 and incidences of significant bradycardia and decreased SpO2 did not vary by group. Complications, including bronchial or esophageal intubation, emesis, and oropharyngeal trauma, were few. Senior anesthesiologists intervened in four tracheal intubations. We advocate anesthetized, paralyzed tracheal intubation because struggling with conscious infants takes longer, often requires multiple attempts, and prevents neither bradycardia nor decreased SpO2. After induction, additional mask ventilation with O2 confers no advantage over immediate tracheal intubation in preserving SpO2.
Implications: In our children's hospital, awake tracheal intubation was not superior to anesthetized, paralyzed intubation in maintaining adequate oxygenation and heart rate or in reducing complications, and should be abandoned in favor of the latter technique for routine anesthetic management of otherwise healthy infants with pyloric stenosis.