Invasive airway techniques in resuscitation

P E Pepe, B S Zachariah, N C Chandra
Annals of Emergency Medicine 1993, 22 (2): 393-403
Although endotracheal intubation is still the most definitive technique for airway management in patients with cardiac or respiratory arrest, in some emergency care systems, use of endotracheal intubation by prehospital care personnel has been restricted by policy or statute. Therefore, alternative airway devices have been developed. These alternative airway devices include the Esophageal Obturator Airway (EOA) and Esophageal Gastric Tube Airway (EGTA), the Pharyngeotracheal Lumen Airway (PTL), and the Esophageal-Tracheal Combitube (ETC). By examining the available literature concerning these alternative airway devices, we sought to determine 1) if these devices are superior to basic, noninvasive airway techniques (eg, bag-valve-mask ventilation); 2) if they are comparable to endotracheal intubation in terms of ventilation, oxygenation, and potential complications; 3) what the role of these devices should be in prehospital care; and 4) what the best recommendations should be regarding these devices in terms of resuscitation training and future areas for research. The review involved a total of 837 EOA/EGTA, 304 PTL, and 159 ETC study patients. Although ventilation and oxygenation can, in some circumstances, be as good with the EOA/EGTA devices as it is with the endotracheal intubation, in some cases they can be inadequate, and the complication rate is relatively high. Preliminarily, the PTL and the ETC seem to provide adequate ventilation and oxygenation with few complications. However, for both devices, published clinical experience, especially in the prehospital setting, is still limited. Therefore, their use should be left to the discretion of accountable physician directors of applicable resuscitation teams. Regardless of the device used, recognition of proper placement remains the most important aspect of using any invasive airway device. Therefore, proper training and expert medical supervision probably have more influence on the successful use and impact of these devices than any other factors related to the devices themselves. Future training efforts would be most useful if directed at proper endotracheal intubation training and development of improved basic ventilatory skills. Nevertheless, additional controlled, direct-comparison studies of the PTL and ETC devices are recommended and should be conducted in properly supervised emergency medical services systems.

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