Tag Archives: intubation

Emergency Intubation: ED or OR?

Decades ago, intubation of trauma patients only took place in the operating room, and only anesthesiologists performed it. As the discipline of Emergency Medicine came into being in the 1980s, emergency physicians became skilled in this procedure. Occasional trauma intubations had to occur in the ED, and typically anesthesia was called for it.

As the emergency physicians became more comfortable and improved their skills, they also started intubating. I distinctly remember a paper from the time (which I unfortunately do not have a reference to) stating that ED and OR intubation were equally safe if the ED intubation field could be made to look like the OR.  This thinking has become commonplace, and in most trauma centers, intubation is now provided nearly exclusively by emergency physicians. Anesthesia is called only for extremely difficult cases.

But we have all been involved in cases where the patient is severely injured, usually hypotensive, and crashes and burns during or immediately after the procedure. This is likely due to a combination of loss of sympathetic tone due to the drugs administered, increased vagal tone from instrumenting the airway, and hypovolemia.

Authors from the University of Wisconsin, University of Pennsylvania, and Johns Hopkins hypothesized that ED intubation for patients requiring urgent operation for hemorrhage control was associated with adverse outcomes. They performed a three-year registry study from the National Trauma Program Databank of patients requiring laparotomy for hemorrhage control within 60 minutes of arrival. They excluded the dead and nearly dead (DOA, ED thoracotomy) and patients with immediate indications for intubation (head, neck, or facial trauma). They compared mortality, ED dwell time, blood transfusions, and major complications between patients with ED vs. OR intubation.

Here are the factoids:

  • Nearly 10,000 patients from 253 Level I or II trauma centers were included in the study
  • About 20% of patients underwent intubation in the ED, and they were more likely to have blunt trauma mechanism and higher ISS (22 vs. 17)
  • Initial vital signs were not clinically significant between the ED and OR groups
  • Mortality in the ED group was significantly higher (17% vs. 7%), the ED dwell time was significantly longer ( 31 vs. 22 minutes), required significantly more blood transfusion (6 vs. 4 units), and had a significantly higher risk of major complications (specifically cardiac arrest, AKI, and ARDS)
  • There was a wide variation in the rate of ED intubation across all the hospitals. Centers with the highest rate of ED intubations were 5x more likely to intubate than the lowest rate centers. The patient case mix could not explain this difference.
  • The lower ED intubation rate hospitals tended to be nonprofit Level I university hospitals
  • Centers with high levels of hemorrhage control surgery were more likely to intubate in the OR

Bottom line: From a purely technical perspective, the old dogma about patient location not making a difference is basically true. The process of getting an airway safely into the patient and secured is equivalent wherever it is done as long as the lighting, equipment, and skill levels are equivalent. 

But when one considers the physiologic aftermath of this process, things are obviously more nuanced. Actively bleeding patients are extremely challenged, down to their organ and cellular levels. Disrupting their normal compensatory mechanisms is clearly associated with a significant downside. 

We should clearly distinguish the patient who needs an airway for airway’s sake or cerebral protection from one who needs to be in the OR for bleeding control. Other papers have shown that mortality increases as each minute ticks by in the hemorrhaging patient. Trauma programs need to monitor these patients and do a performance improvement deep dive into all trauma patients intubated in the ED to ensure appropriate decision-making.

Reference: Emergency Department Versus Operating Room Intubation of Patients Undergoing Immediate Hemorrhage Control Surgery. Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, Publish Ahead of Print
DOI: 10.1097/TA.0000000000003907

Best Of EAST 2023 #6: The Best Place To Intubate Bleeding Patients

Forty years ago, the presumption was that the best way to intubate a trauma patient was to take them to a fully equipped operating room and have an anesthesiologist perform it. Then, a few years later, we finally figured out it could be done in the emergency department. The key to doing it safely was that the trauma bay needed to look like an OR, with appropriate airway equipment, lights, and drugs. And you had to ensure that your intubator had sufficient skills.

But we are all too familiar with one subset of trauma patients much more sensitive to the intubation process: those who are bleeding and in shock. They are desperately compensating to attempt to maintain their vital signs as much as they can with their sympathetic tone. Unfortunately, the intubation process and the drugs we use can eliminate this reflex and lead to immediate hemodynamic collapse.

The trauma group at Johns Hopkins postulated that intubation in the ED could lead to worse outcomes in this particular group of patients. They analyzed three years of data from the National Trauma Data Bank dataset, isolating patients at Level I and Level II trauma centers who underwent immediate hemorrhage control surgery after arrival. Patients who were dead on arrival, intubated for airway concerns, or underwent resuscitative thoracotomy were excluded.

The authors used a regression model to determine any association between intubation and mortality. They also analyzed the usual secondary outcomes (complications [cardiac arrest, ARDS, AKI, sepsis], transfusions, and time in the ED).

Here are the factoids:

  • Nearly ten thousand patients at 253 trauma centers met inclusion criteria
  • Most patients were men with penetrating injury
  • One in five underwent intubation in the ED before their hemorrhage control operation and suffered a 17% mortality rate vs. 7% in the OR intubation group, which was a significant difference
  • Median dwell time in the ED was 31 minutes vs. 22 minutes in the OR group
  • Transfusion amount was significantly higher in the ED vs. OR group (6 vs. 4 units RBC)
  • Rates of all complications were significantly higher in the ED vs. OR groups (except sepsis)
  • Overall, cardiac arrest with CPR occurred in 10% of ED vs. 4% OR intubations
  • Centers that had low ED intubation rates generally had significantly lower post-intubation cardiac arrest events than those with higher ED intubation rates.

The authors concluded that ED intubation of patients requiring hemorrhage control was associated with multiple adverse events. They recommended that these patients be taken to the OR, where both intubation and rapid bleeding control can be achieved.

Bottom line: This nice, clean abstract addresses a simple question. Although it uses a large database, the authors focused on a limited number of variables, keeping the analysis uncomplicated.

The abstract paints a clear picture that agrees with the subjective observations of many trauma professionals that intubation in these patients can be dangerous. They found significant increases in mortality and complications in patients intubated in the ED.

Does this mean that the procedure is not being done as well there? Absolutely not! I believe the key is in the ED dwell time data, which shows an average of 9 more minutes spent there for intubation. Previous research has shown how even a few minutes count when it comes to hemorrhage control. This abstract provides some hard numbers that show how important it really is to get to the OR.

Here are my questions and comments for the presenter/authors:

  • First, a minor point: how can the “median” GCS be 15? Fifteen is the highest it can go. The median is the number where half the results are higher and half are lower. So if no results can be higher, none can be lower. Does this mean that every one of your 10K patients was wide awake?
  • Please explain the figure a little better. Does it just show the mix of low vs. average vs. high ED intubation rates? Or does it go along with the statement that high intubation rate centers have a higher likelihood of cardiac arrest in these patients?

I really enjoyed this abstract and am looking forward to any additional details provided at the presentation.

Reference: EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT VERSUS OPERATING ROOM INTUBATION OF PATIENTS UNDERGOING IMMEDIATE HEMORRHAGE CONTROL SURGERY, EAST 2023 Podium paper #13.

By Request: Submental Intubation – The Video!

In my last post, I dusted off an old post that described a novel technique for providing a secure yet short-term airway tailored to patients who can’t have a tube in their mouth or nose. Patients undergoing multiple facial fracture repair are probably the best candidates for this procedure.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a video is even better. Please note that it is explicit and shows the blow by blow surgical procedure. Of note, it is a quick and relatively simple advanced airway technique. Note the cool music!

Related post:

By Request Again!: Submental Intubation

I keep getting requests regarding this technique, so I’m reposting  this updated article today, and a video of the technique next week.

Here’s one of the weirder procedures I’ve seen in some time. Imagine that you need a definitive airway, but you can’t use the face for some reason (mouth or nose). The usual choice would be a tracheostomy, right? But what if you only need it for a few days? Typically, once placed, trachs must be kept for a few weeks before decannulation is safe.

Enter submental intubation. This technique involves passing an endotracheal tube through the anterior floor of the mouth, and then down the airway. This leaves the facial bones, mandible, and skull base untouched.

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The technique is straightforward:

  • After initially intubating the patient  orotracheally, a 1.5cm incision is created just off the midline in the submental area under the chin.
  • Using a hemostat, all layers are penetrated, entering the oropharynx just lateral to the tongue.
  • A 1.5cm incision is then made at the puncture site, parallel to the gum line of the lower teeth.
  • The ET tube is removed from the ventilator circuit, and the connector at the proximal end of the tube is removed.
  • The hemostat is placed through the chin incision again. The proximal end of the ET tube is curled into the oropharynx and grasped with the hemostat, then pulled out through the skin under the chin, leaving the distal (balloon) end in the trachea.
  • The connector is reinserted, and the tube is then hooked up to the anesthesia circuit again.
  • The tube is then secured using a stitch under the chin.

After a final position check, the surgical procedure can commence. Cool!

 

There are a number of variations on this technique, so you may encounter slightly different descriptions. The tube can be pulled at the end of the procedure, or left for a few days to ensure safe extubation, if needed.

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A small series of 10 patients undergoing this technique was reviewed, and there were no short or long term problems. Scarring under the chin was acceptable, and was probably less noticeable than a trach scar.

Bottom line: This is a unique and creative method for intubating patients with very short-term airway needs while their facial fractures are being fixed. Brilliant idea!

Tomorrow: Submental intubation – the video!

Reference: Submental intubation in patients with panfacial fractures: a prospective study. Indian J Anaesth 55(3):299-304, 2011.

Photo source: internet

The April 2021 Trauma MedEd Newsletter Is Live! Potpourri

This issue is devoted to an uncommon yet potentially devastating problem, blunt carotid and vertebral artery injury.

In this issue, learn about:

  • Who’s Better At Invasive Procedures? Advanced care providers or residents?
  • How Many Salt Tabs In A Liter Of Saline?
  • Mainstem Intubation In Pediatric Patients
  •    And How To Avoid It!
  • Giving TXA Via An Intraosseous Line?

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