The Royal College of Anaesthetists in the UK has released its 4th National Audit – looking into the root causes of airway disasters. It is definitely worth a read for anyone who does a regular anaesthetic list or tackles emergency airways in the ED. Check out the Executive summary for the short version.
If you are really busy or lazy – here is the super short summary for airway tips from the audit:
- Failure to plan for airway difficulty = planning to fail (or flail)
- You should have a pre-meditated backup plan
- Awake-Fibreoptic airway techniques should be used – the Audit found failure to use where indicated resulted in complications
- If you can’t intubate or ventilate (code brown) then don’t keep trying the same technique – STOP and try something new
- LMAs were used inappropriately a lot – aspiration resulted. Especially in obese patients. If you think aspiration is possible – do a RSI!
- LMAs are not a good “plan” for a known difficult airway – unless you have a good plan B at your disposal
- Obese patients were underrated – represented twice as many airway disasters tan thin peole.
- Needle crics are not easy (60% failure) – you should know how to do a scalpel technique
- Failure to recognise a flat capnograph trace led to failue to ID oesophageal tube or tube obstruction.
- Emergence events accounted for 1/3 of disasters. NPPE was 10% – see Broome Docs Case 004 for example…
- Most cases included some degree of operator error / poor judgement – consider discussing any tricky case with a colleague
- 25 % of disasters occurred in ICU or ED – a lot of these were due to poor planning / not having the standard equipment / people available for a RSI etc
- In non-anaestetic environments – tube dislodgement was a major cause of poor outcomes. Keep an eye on your tube – even in the ED, especially in the ED.