Emergency tracheal intubation immediately following traumatic injury: an Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma practice management guideline

Julie Mayglothling, Therese M Duane, Michael Gibbs, Maureen McCunn, Eric Legome, Alexander L Eastman, James Whelan, Kaushal H Shah
Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery 2012, 73 (5 Suppl 4): S333-40

BACKGROUND: The ABCs of trauma resuscitation begin with the airway evaluation, and effective airway management is imperative in the care of a patient with critical injury. The Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma Practice Management Guidelines committee aimed to update the guidelines for emergency tracheal intubation (ETI) published in 2002. These guidelines were made to assist clinicians with decisions regarding airway management for patients immediately following traumatic injury. The goals of the work group were to develop evidence-based guidelines to (1) characterize patients in need of ETI and (2) delineate the most appropriate procedure for patients undergoing ETI.

METHODS: A search of the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health MEDLINE database was performed using PubMed (

RESULTS: The search retrieved English-language articles published from 2000 to 2012 involving patients who had sustained blunt trauma, penetrating trauma, or heat-related injury and had developed respiratory system insufficiency or required ETI in the immediate period after injury (first 2 hours after injury). Sixty-nine articles were used to construct this set of practice management guidelines.

CONCLUSION: The data supported the formation of six Level 1 recommendations, four Level 2 recommendations, and two Level 3 recommendations. In summary, the decision to intubate a patient following traumatic injury is based on multiple factors, including the need for oxygenation and ventilation, the extent and mechanism of injury, predicted operative need, or progression of disease. Rapid sequence intubation with direct laryngoscopy continues to be the recommended method for ETI, although the use of airway adjuncts such as blind insertion supraglottic devices and video laryngoscopy may be useful in facilitating successful ETI and may be preferred in certain patient populations. There is no pharmacologic induction agent of choice for ETI; however, succinylcholine is the neuromuscular blockade agent recommended for rapid sequence intubation.

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