Pre-hospital RSI by different specialties

This aim of the study was to evaluate the tracheal intubation success rate of doctors drawn from different clinical specialities performing rapid sequence intubation (RSI) in the pre-hospital environment operating on the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance. Over a 5-year period, RSI was performed in 200 cases (3.1/month).

Failure to intubate was declared if >2 successive attempts were required to achieve intubation or an ETT could not be placed correctly necessitating the use of an alternate airway. Successful intubation occurred in 194 cases, giving a failure rate of 3% (6 cases, 95% CI 0.6 to 5.3%). While no difference in failure rate was observed between emergency department (ED) staff and anaesthetists (2.73% (3/110, 95% CI 0 to 5.7%) vs 0% (0/55, 95% CI 0 to 0%); p=0.55), a significant difference was found when non-ED, non- anaesthetic staff (GP and surgical) were compared to anaesthetists (10.34% (3/29, 95% CI 0 to 21.4%) vs 0%; p=0.04). There was no significant difference associated with seniority of practitioner (p=0.65). The authors conclude that non-anaesthetic practitioners have a higher tracheal intubation failure rate during pre-hospital RSI, which may reflect a lack of training opportunities.

The small numbers of ‘failure’ rates, combined with the definition of failure in this study, make it hard to draw generalisations. Of note is that the paper lists the outcomes of the six patients who met the failed intubation definition, all of whom appear to have had their airway satisfactorily maintained by the RSI practitioner, three by eventual tracheal intubation, one by LMA, and two by surgical airway. More data are needed before whole specialties are judged on the performance of a small group of doctors.

Should non-anaesthetists perform pre-hospital rapid sequence induction? an observational study
Emerg Med J. 2010 Jul 26. [Epub ahead of print]