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The Prevalence of Difficult Airway and Associated Risk Factors in Pediatric Patients: A Cross-sessional Observational Study.

BACKGROUND: Difficult airway remains a great challenge in pediatric anesthesia practice. Previously published data show the prevalence of difficult airways in pediatric population varies in a wide range. However, there is a lack of studies in the Asian region.

METHODS: This cross-sectional single-center study was conducted in a tertiary pediatric hospital in China from October 2022 to October 2023. The patients who underwent elective surgery under general anesthesia with tracheal intubation were recruited consecutively. Data on patient characteristics, airway assessment, and airway management information were collected. Multivariable logistic regression analysis was performed to detect the independent variables of difficult airway in pediatric patients.

RESULTS: A total of 18,491 pediatric patients were included in this study. The overall incidence of difficult airways was 0.22%, 39% of whom were unanticipated. Very few previous airway management information was available in the patients presented with a known difficult airway. Patients with younger age, higher American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) physical status classification grade, and presented for craniofacial and thoracic surgery were associated with higher incidence of difficult airway. Further multivariable logistic regression analysis revealed that age ≤28 days (OR=50.48), age between 28days and 1 year (OR=6.053), craniofacial surgery (OR=1.81), and thoracic surgery (OR=0.2465) were independent risk factors of increased incidence of difficult airway.

CONCLUSIONS: Our study showed the prevalence of difficult airways in pediatric surgical patients. Patient characteristics, age, and type of surgery were identified as the independent factors associated with increased occurrence of difficult airways. Unanticipated difficult airway was not unusual in our study population, even for the patients with previous surgical history.

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