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Acta Anaesthesiol Scand. 2017 Aug;61(7):781-789. doi: 10.1111/aas.12914. Epub 2017 May 30.

Claims for compensation after injuries related to airway management: a nationwide study covering 15 years.

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Medical Faculty, Oslo University, Oslo, Norway.
Department of Medical Experts, The Norwegian system of Compensation to Patients (NPE), Oslo, Norway.
The Norwegian system of Compensation to Patients (NPE), Oslo, Norway.
Department of Anaesthesiology, Division of Emergencies and Critical Care, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway.



Securing the airway is one of the most important responsibilities in anaesthesia. Injuries related to airway management can occur. Analysis from closed claims can help to identify patterns of injury, risk factors and areas for improvement.


All claims to The Norwegian System of Compensation to Patients from 1 January 2001 to 31 December 2015 within the medical specialty of anaesthesiology were studied. Data were extracted from this database for patients and coded by airway management procedures.


Of 400 claims for injuries related to airway management, 359 were classified as 'non-severe' and 41 as 'severe'. Of the severe cases, 37% of injuries occurred during emergency procedures. Eighty-one claims resulted in compensation, and 319 were rejected. A total of €1,505,344 was paid to the claimants during the period. Claims of dental damage contributed to a numerically important, but financially modest, proportion of claims. More than half of the severe cases were caused by failed intubation or a misplaced endotracheal tube.


Anaesthesia procedures are not without risk, and injuries can occur when securing the airway. The most common injury was dental trauma. Clear patterns of airway management that resulted in injuries are not apparent from our data, but 37% of severe cases were related to emergency procedures which suggest the need for additional vigilance. Guidelines for difficult intubation situations are well established, but adherence to such guidelines varies. Good planning of every general anaesthesia should involve consideration of possible airway problems and assessment of pre-existing poor dentition.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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