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J Trauma. 2001 Dec;51(6):1065-8.

Role of the emergency medicine physician in airway management of the trauma patient.

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Department of Surgery, Allegheny General Hospital, South Tower, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15212, USA.



A Level I trauma center recently underwent a policy change wherein airway management of the trauma patient is under the auspices of Emergency Medicine (EM) rather than Anesthesiology.


We prospectively collected data on 11 months of EM intubations (EMI) since this policy change and compared them to the last year of Anesthesia-managed intubations (ANI) to answer the following questions: (1) Is intubation of trauma patients being accomplished effectively by EM? (2) Has there been a change in complication rates since the policy change? (3) How does the complication rate at our trauma center compare with other institutions?


EM residents successfully intubated trauma patients on their first attempt 73.7% of the time compared with 77.2% ANI. The overall success rates, i.e., securing the airway within three attempts, were 97.0% (EMI) and 98.0% (ANI). The airway was successfully secured by EMI 100% of the time while a surgical airway was performed in two ANIs.


EM residents and staff can safely manage the airway of trauma patients. There is no statistically significant difference in peri-intubation complications. The complication rate for EDI (33%) and ANI (38%) is higher than reported in the literature, although the populations are not entirely comparable.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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