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Supraglottic airway devices in difficult airway management: a retrospective cohort study of 658,104 general anaesthetics registered in the Danish Anaesthesia Database

J L D Thomsen, A K Nørskov, C V Rosenstock
Anaesthesia 2019, 74 (2): 151-157
Indications for using supraglottic airway devices have widened over time and they now hold a prominent role in guidelines for difficult airway management. We aimed to describe the use of supraglottic airway devices in difficult airway management. We included adult patients undergoing general anaesthesia registered in the Danish Anaesthesia Database from 2008 to 2012 whose airway management had been recorded as difficult, defined as: ≥ 3 tracheal intubation attempts; failed tracheal intubation; or difficult facemask ventilation. In the Danish Anaesthesia Database, a separate difficult airway management module requires the technique used in each successive airway management attempt to be recorded. The primary aim of the study was to describe the use of supraglottic airway devices in cases of difficult airway management. Secondary aims were to examine success rates of supraglottic airway devices in difficult airway management cases, and specifically in the cases of 'cannot intubate, cannot facemask ventilate'. Difficult airway management occurred in 4898 (0.74% (95%CI 0.72-0.76%)) of 658,104 records of general anaesthesia. Supraglottic airway devices were used or use was attempted in 607 cases of difficult airway management (12.4% (95%CI 11.5-13.3%)), and were successful in 395 (65.1% (95%CI 61.2-68.8%)) cases. In 'cannot intubate, cannot facemask ventilate' situations, supraglottic airway devices were used in 86 (18.9% (95%CI 15.6-22.8%)) of 455 records and were successful in 54 (62.8% (95%CI 52.2-72.3%)) cases. We found that supraglottic airway devices are not widely used in the management of the difficult airway despite their prominent role in difficult airway management guidelines.


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