• Vol. 50 No. 1, 42–51
  • 01 January 2021

Emergency airway management in a Singapore centre: A registry study



Introduction: Intubations in the emergency department (ED) are often performed immediately without the benefit of pre-selection or the ability to defer. Multicentre observational data provide a framework for understanding emergency airway management but regional practice variation may exist. We aim to describe the intubation indications, prevalence of difficult airway features, peri-intubation adverse events and intubator characteristics in the ED of the National University Hospital, Singapore. Methods: We conducted a prospective observational study over a period of 31 months from 1 March 2016 to 28 September 2018. Information regarding each intubation attempt, such as indications for intubation, airway assessment, intubation techniques used, peri-intubation adverse events, and clinical outcomes, was collected and described. Results: There were 669 patients, with male predominance (67.3%, 450/669) and mean age of 60.9 years (standard deviation [SD] 18.1). Of these, 25.6% were obese or grossly obese and majority were intubated due to medical indications (84.8%, 567/669). Emergency physicians’ initial impression of difficult airway correlated with a higher grade of glottis view on laryngoscopy. First-pass intubation success rate was 86.5%, with hypoxia (11.2%, 75/669) and hypotension (3.7%, 25/669) reported as the two most common adverse events. Majority was rapid sequence intubation (67.3%, 450/669) and the device used was most frequently a video laryngoscope (75.6%, 506/669). More than half of the intubations were performed by postgraduate clinicians in year 5 and above, clinical fellows or attending physicians. Conclusion: In our centre, the majority of emergency intubations were performed for medical indications by senior doctors utilising rapid sequence intubation and video laryngoscopy with good ffirst-attempt success.

Emergency airways often present with little warning, and the need for airway management is necessary for a successful resuscitation. This is in contrast to most intubations performed in the operating room (OR). Additionally, difficult airways are more prevalent in emergency department (ED) populations due to acute conditions such as blunt and penetrating trauma, burns, decompensated physiology and various pathological causes of airway obstruction. The emergency physician needs to understand the current practice, expectations and anticipated outcomes for emergency department intubations.

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