American airway management in the field

I often wonder why my US colleagues are so vehemently opposed to out-of-hospital tracheal intubation. This paper provides a clue. I would love it if any EMS providers out there could comment, as I find these results staggering.
The authors comment that the data set “contains data on over 4.3 million EMS events from 16 states (Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, and Oklahoma) for the one-year period January 1, 2008–December 31, 2008. These states were the first to participate in the NEMSIS project. There are no estimates of the numbers of EMS agencies or EMS responses that are not included in NEMSIS. Hawaii, New Jersey, New Mexico and Oklahoma provided only partial data for the study period because of their implementation of NEMSIS during 2008.

OBJECTIVE: Prior studies describe airway management by single EMS agencies, regions or states. We sought to characterize out-of-hospital airway management interventions, outcomes and complications across the United States.
METHODS: Using the 2008 National Emergency Medical Services Information System (NEMSIS) Public-Release Data Set containing data from 16 states, we identified patients receiving advanced airway management, including endotracheal intubation (ETI), alternate airways (Combitube, Laryngeal Mask Airway (LMA), King LT, Esophageal-Obturator Airway (EOA)), and cricothyroidotomy (needle and open). We examined airway management success and complications in the full cohort and in key subsets (cardiac arrest, non-arrest medical, non-arrest injury, children <10 and 10-19 years, rapid-sequence intubation (RSI), population setting and US census region). We analyzed the data using descriptive statistics.
RESULTS: Among 4,383,768 EMS activations, there were 10,356 ETI, 2246 alternate airways, and 88 cricothyroidotomies. ETI success rates were: overall 6482/8418 (77.0%; 95% CI: 76.1-77.9%), cardiac arrest 3494/4482 (78.0%), non-arrest medical 616/846 (72.8%), non-arrest injury 417/505 (82.6%), children <10 years 295/397 (74.3%), children 10-19 years 228/289 (78.9%), adult 5829/7552 (77.2%), and rapid-sequence intubation 289/355 (81.4%). ETI success was success was lowest in the South US census region. Alternate airway success was 1564/1794 (87.2%). Major complications included: bleeding 84 (7.0 per 1000 interventions), vomiting 80 (6.7 per 1000) and esophageal intubation 12 (1.0 per 1000).
CONCLUSIONS: In this study characterizing out-of-hospital airway management across the United States, we observed low out-of-hospital ETI success rates. These data may guide national efforts to improve the quality of out-of-hospital airway management.

Out-of-hospital airway management in the United States
Resuscitation. 2011 Apr;82(4):378-85

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