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Anaesthesia. 2014 Apr;69(4):314-9. doi: 10.1111/anae.12598.

Sublingual ultrasound as an assessment method for predicting difficult intubation: a pilot study.

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Royal Alexandra Hospital, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


Current methods to assess the airway before tracheal intubation are variable in their ability to predict a difficult airway accurately. We hypothesised that sublingual ultrasound could provide additional information to predict a difficult airway with greater success than current methods. We recruited 110 patients to perform sublingual ultrasound on themselves following brief instruction. Ability to view the hyoid bone on sublingual ultrasound, mouth opening distance, thyromental distance, neck mobility, size of mandible and modified Mallampati classification were recorded and assessed for ability to predict a difficult intubation based on the grade of laryngoscope. Visibility of the hyoid using ultrasound was associated with a laryngoscopic grade of 1-2 (p < 0.0001), and (p < 0.0001) had a positive likelihood ratio of 21.6 and a negative likelihood ratio of 0.28. Each of the other methods had considerably lower positive likelihood ratios and lower sensitivity. Our results suggest that sublingual ultrasound is a potential tool for predicting a difficult airway in addition to conventional methods.

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