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J Trauma. 1989 Apr;29(4):506-8.

Surgical cricothyrotomy in the field: experience of a helicopter transport team.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio.


A retrospective analysis of 3,500 helicopter missions revealed 20 patients who required cricothyrotomy in the field for emergency airway access. Five patients who were in cardiopulmonary arrest succumbed despite cricothyrotomy, all with adequate airway control (Trauma Score, 2.8; ISS, 55.6). Seven of 12 patients with oral, maxillofacial, or cervical trauma survived (Trauma Score, 9.6; ISS, 48.25). There were no instances of bleeding, malposition, airway obstruction, or dysphonia after decannulation in the survivors. Autopsy revealed no serious airway pathology or compromise in those who expired. Surgical cricothyrotomy can successfully be performed in the field by a nurse/physician helicopter transport team. When conventional airway maneuvers are unsuccessful we recommend cricothyrotomy for emergency airway access.

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