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Anesth Analg. 2001 Feb;92(2):517-22.

Validation of a simple algorithm for tracheal intubation: daily practice is the key to success in emergencies--an analysis of 13,248 intubations.

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Department of Anesthesiology, St. Gallen Cantonal Hospital, St. Gallen, Switzerland.


A fundamental skill of the anesthesiologist is airway management. We validated a simple endotracheal intubation algorithm with a large proportion of fiberoptic tracheal intubations used for years in daily practice. Over 2 yr, 13,248 intubations (>90% of all intubations, including obstetrics and ear, nose, and throat patients) in a heterogeneous patient population at our acute care hospital were evaluated prospectively. About 80 physician and nurse anesthetists were involved. Once the indication for intubation (oral or nasal) was established, the first step was to choose between the primary conventional technique (laryngoscope with Macintosh blades) and the primary fiberoptic technique. For the conventional technique, a well defined procedure had to be followed (maximum of two attempts at intubation; if unsuccessful, switch to secondary oral fiberoptic intubation). For the primary fiberoptic technique, the anesthesiologist had to decide between nasotracheal intubation in awake patients and oral intubation in anesthetized patients. Fiberoptics were used for 13.5% of the intubations. By following our algorithm, intubation failed in 6 out of 13,248 cases (0.045%; 95% confidence interval 0.02%-0.11%). We demonstrate that a simple algorithm for endotracheal intubation, basically limited to fiberoptics as the only aid, is successful in daily practice. Only methods that are practiced daily can be used successfully in emergencies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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