The laryngeal mask airway reliably provides rescue ventilation in cases of unanticipated difficult tracheal intubation along with difficult mask ventilation

J L Parmet, P Colonna-Romano, J C Horrow, F Miller, J Gonzales, H Rosenberg
Anesthesia and Analgesia 1998, 87 (3): 661-5

UNLABELLED: In 1995, our department of anesthesiology established an airway team to assist in treating unanticipated difficult endotracheal intubations and an airway quality improvement (QI) form to document the use of emergency airway techniques in airway crises (laryngeal mask airway [LMA], flexible fiberoptic bronchoscopy, retrograde intubation [RI], transtracheal jet ventilation [TTJV], and cricothyrotomy). Over a 2-yr period, team members and staff anesthesiologists completed airway QI forms to document the smallest peripheral SpO2 during an airway crisis, the number of direct laryngoscopies (DL) performed before using an emergency airway technique, and the emergency airway technique that succeeded in rescue ventilation. Team members agreed to use the LMA as the first emergency airway technique to treat the difficult ventilation/difficult intubation scenario. A SpO2 value < or =90% during mask ventilation defined difficult ventilation. Inability to perform tracheal intubation by DL defined difficult intubation. An increase in the SpO2 value >90% defined rescue ventilation. Review of airway QI forms from October 1, 1995 until October 1, 1997 revealed 25 cases of difficult ventilation/difficult intubation. Before airway rescue, the median SpO2 was 80% (range 50%-90%), and there were four median attempts at DL (range one to nine). The LMA had a success rate of 94% (95% confidence interval [CI] 77-100). Flexible fiberoptic bronchoscopy, TTJV, RI, and surgical cricothyrotomy had success rates of 50% (95% CI 0-100), 33% (95% CI 0-100), 100% (95% CI 37-100), and 100% (95% CI 37-100), respectively. LMA insertion as the first alternative airway technique was useful in dealing with unanticipated instances of simultaneous difficulty with mask ventilation and tracheal intubation.

IMPLICATIONS: Twenty-five cases of simultaneous difficulty with mask ventilation and tracheal intubation occurred after the induction of general anesthesia during the study period. The laryngeal mask was used in 17 cases, and it provided rescue ventilation without complication in 94% of these cases (95% confidence interval 77-100).

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