Evaluation of tracheal intubation difficulty in patients with cervical spine immobilization: fiberoptic (WuScope) versus conventional laryngoscopy

C E Smith, A B Pinchak, T S Sidhu, B P Radesic, A C Pinchak, J F Hagen
Anesthesiology 1999, 91 (5): 1253-9

BACKGROUND: The WuScope is a rigid, fiberoptic laryngoscope designed to facilitate tracheal intubation without the need for head extension. The study evaluated the WuScope in anesthetized patients with neck immobilization.

METHODS: Patients were randomized to one of two groups: those receiving fiberoptic laryngoscopy (WuScope, n = 43) and those receiving conventional laryngoscopy (Macintosh blade, n = 44). Manual in-line stablization of the cervical spine was done during intubation. Seven parameters of intubation difficulty were measured (providing an intubation difficulty scale score): number of operators, number of attempts, number of techniques, Cormack view, lifting force, laryngeal pressure, and vocal cord position.

RESULTS: Successful intubation occurred in 95% of patients in the fiberoptic group and in 93% of patients in the conventional group. There were no differences in number of attempts. In the fiberoptic group, 79% of patients had an intubation difficulty scale score of 0, representing an ideal intubation: that is, one performed by the first operator on the first attempt using the first technique with full glottic visualization. Only 18% of patients in the conventional group had an intubation difficulty scale score of 0 (P < 0.001). More patients had Cormack grade 3 or 4 views with conventional than with fiberoptic laryngoscopy (39 vs. 2%, P < 0.001). Intubation times in patients with one attempt were slightly longer in the fiberoptic (median, 25th-75th percentiles: 30, 23-53 s) compared with the conventional group (24, 17-30 s, P < 0.05). Corresponding times in patients requiring > one attempt were 155 (range, 112-201) s and 141 (range, 95-186) s in the fiberoptic and conventional groups, respectively (P value not significant).

CONCLUSIONS: Compared with conventional laryngoscopy, tracheal intubation using the fiberoptic laryngoscope was associated with lower intubation difficulty scale scores and better views of the laryngeal aperture in patients with cervical imnmobilization. However, there were no differences in success rates or number of intubation attempts.

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