Can J Anaesth. 2013 Nov;60(11):1089-118. doi: 10.1007/s12630-013-0019-3. Epub 2013 Oct 17.
BACKGROUND: Previously active in the mid-1990s, the Canadian Airway Focus Group (CAFG) studied the unanticipated difficult airway and made recommendations on management in a 1998 publication. The CAFG has since reconvened to examine more recent scientific literature on airway management. The Focus Group's mandate for this article was to arrive at updated practice recommendations for management of the unconscious/induced patient in whom difficult or failed tracheal intubation is encountered. METHODS: Nineteen clinicians with backgrounds in anesthesia, emergency medicine, and intensive care joined this iteration of the CAFG. Each member was assigned topics and conducted reviews of Medline, EMBASE, and Cochrane databases. Results were presented and discussed during multiple teleconferences and two face-to-face meetings. When appropriate, evidence- or consensus-based recommendations were made together with assigned levels of evidence modelled after previously published criteria. CONCLUSIONS: The clinician must be aware of the potential for harm to the patient that can occur with multiple attempts at tracheal intubation. This likelihood can be minimized by moving early from an unsuccessful primary intubation technique to an alternative "Plan B" technique if oxygenation by face mask or ventilation using a supraglottic device is non-problematic. Irrespective of the technique(s) used, failure to achieve successful tracheal intubation in a maximum of three attempts defines failed tracheal intubation and signals the need to engage an exit strategy. Failure to oxygenate by face mask or supraglottic device ventilation occurring in conjunction with failed tracheal intubation defines a failed oxygenation, "cannot intubate, cannot oxygenate" situation. Cricothyrotomy must then be undertaken without delay, although if not already tried, an expedited and concurrent attempt can be made to place a supraglottic device.
Can J Anaesth. 2013 Nov;60(11):1119-38. doi: 10.1007/s12630-013-0020-x. Epub 2013 Oct 17.
BACKGROUND: Appropriate planning is crucial to avoid morbidity and mortality when difficulty is anticipated with airway management. Many guidelines developed by national societies have focused on management of difficulty encountered in the unconscious patient; however, little guidance appears in the literature on how best to approach the patient with an anticipated difficult airway. METHODS: To review this and other subjects, the Canadian Airway Focus Group (CAFG) was re-formed. With representation from anesthesiology, emergency medicine, and critical care, CAFG members were assigned topics for review. As literature reviews were completed, results were presented and discussed during teleconferences and two face-to-face meetings. When appropriate, evidence- or consensus-based recommendations were made, and levels of evidence were assigned. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Previously published predictors of difficult direct laryngoscopy are widely known. More recent studies report predictors of difficult face mask ventilation, video laryngoscopy, use of a supraglottic device, and cricothyrotomy. All are important facets of a complete airway evaluation and must be considered when difficulty is anticipated with airway management. Many studies now document the increasing patient morbidity that occurs with multiple attempts at tracheal intubation. Therefore, when difficulty is anticipated, tracheal intubation after induction of general anesthesia should be considered only when success with the chosen device(s) can be predicted in a maximum of three attempts. Concomitant predicted difficulty using oxygenation by face mask or supraglottic device ventilation as a fallback makes an awake approach advisable. Contextual issues, such as patient cooperation, availability of additional skilled help, and the clinician's experience, must also be considered in deciding the appropriate strategy. CONCLUSIONS: With an appropriate airway evaluation and consideration of relevant contextual issues, a rational decision can be made on whether an awake approach to tracheal intubation will maximize patient safety or if airway management can safely proceed after induction of general anesthesia. With predicted difficulty, close attention should be paid to details of implementing the chosen approach. This should include having a plan in case of the failure of tracheal intubation or patient oxygenation.