Category: Critical Care
Keywords: Intubation, Trauma, Cervical Spine, Laryngoscopy (PubMed Search)
Posted: 5/23/2023 by Mark Sutherland, MD
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Ability to move the head and neck freely can be clutch in endotracheal intubation, so in patients such as certain trauma patients who may have c-spine instability and need to be immobilized, it's all the more important to choose the optimal intubation approach to maximize success and minimize head movement.
Choi et al recently published a study in Anesthesia looking at:
-Video laryngoscopy with a standard geometry Mac blade
as the initial method for intubating patients in c-collars about to undergo spinal surgery. This is an interesting contrast between two extremes, as standard geometry is the most "traditional" approach, whereas fiberoptic is kind of the opposite end of the spectrum, jumping to a more advanced method which might be more flexible (no pun intended) but also introduces new complexities.
All outcomes actually favored standard geometry VL over fiberoptic, including first pass success (98% vs 91%), time to intubation (50s vs 81s) and need for additional airway maneuvers (18% vs 56%). There was no difference in complication rates, although a bigger study might be needed to find rare complications (this study had 330 patients).
In my opinion, it's unfortunate they didn't include hyperangulated VL, as it would be interesting to see how this approach compares. Personally I think of hyperangulated VL in these patients as a nice blend of the two methods, bringing the familiarity and speed of typical VL intubation, but often requiring less neck movement like fiberoptic.
Bottom Line: This study does not support a fiberoptic first approach to intubating patients with cervical spine instability. In fact, it may cause harm.
Choi S, Yoo HK, Shin KW, Kim YJ, Yoon HK, Park HP, Oh H. Videolaryngoscopy vs. flexible fibrescopy for tracheal intubation in patients with cervical spine immobilisation: a randomised controlled trial. Anaesthesia. 2023 May 5. doi: 10.1111/anae.16035. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 37145935.
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