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Anesth Analg. 1998 Jun;86(6):1171-6.

Unplanned tracheal extubation outside the operating room: a quality improvement audit of hemodynamic and tracheal airway complications associated with emergency tracheal reintubation.

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  • 1Department of Anesthesiology, Hartford Hospital, University of Connecticut 06102, USA.


The incidence of hemodynamic and airway complications associated with tracheal reintubation after an unplanned extubation has not been established. Patients whose tracheas were emergently intubated outside the operating room were reviewed over a 27-mo period via a quality improvement vehicle to evaluate hemodynamic and airway complications. Data from a subset of patients (n = 57) who underwent tracheal reintubation after unplanned (self-) extubation were collected for analysis. Of the reintubations, 93% took place within 2 h of self-extubation. Of the patients, 72% had hemodynamic alterations and/or airway-related complications, including hypotension (35%), tachycardia (30%), hypertension (14%), multiple laryngoscopic attempts (22%), difficult laryngoscopy (16%), difficult intubations (14%), hypoxemia (14%), and esophageal intubation (14%). In addition, one surgical airway and one case of "cannot ventilate, cannot intubate" leading to cardiac arrest and death were recorded. These findings suggest that patients requiring reintubation will likely do so soon after self-extubation and that reintubation can be fraught with significant hemodynamic and airway complications. Less than one third of patients undergo a mishap-free reintubation. Strategies to decrease the self-extubation rate in the intensive care unit are needed to improve patient safety and to lessen the potential impact of emergency airway management.


Self-extubation by patients requiring mechanical ventilation can be life-threatening, and replacing the breathing tube often leads to hemodynamic and airway complications. Using this quality improvement audit, 57 self-extubating patients and the complications associated with replacing the breathing tube, which are numerous and can lead to significant morbidity and mortality, were analyzed.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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