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Nasotracheal intubation using the Blind Intubation Device in anaesthetised adults with Mallampati class 3: a comparison with the Macintosh laryngoscope

Sun, Yu; Liu, Jin-Xing; Zhu, Ye-Sen; Xu, Hui; Huang, Yan; Jiang, Hong

European Journal of Anaesthesiology: November 2011 - Volume 28 - Issue 11 - p 774–780
doi: 10.1097/EJA.0b013e328349a9f9
Airway management

Context We hypothesised that the Blind Intubation Device (BID) would be effective for nasotracheal intubation (NTI) in anaesthetised adults with Mallampati class 3. We also hypothesised that BID may cause less haemodynamic changes due to the avoidance of direct stimulation induced by the Macintosh blade.

Objective The purpose of the study was to compare the effectiveness of the BID with the Macintosh laryngoscope for NTI in anaesthetised adults with Mallampati class 3.

Design A prospective randomised controlled study.

Setting Operation unit in a University Hospital in Shanghai. Period of the study was from September to November 2010.

Patients or other participants Mallampati class 3 adults requiring NTI for elective oral and maxillofacial surgery were randomly assigned to a BID group (n = 25) or a Macintosh laryngoscope group (ML group) (n = 25).

Intervention After anaesthesia induction, patients were intubated by a single anaesthesiologist experienced in using both devices.

Main outcome measures The mean arterial pressure (MAP) and heart rate (HR) were recorded at specific time points. NTI duration and success rate was compared. Epistaxis-associated and NTI-associated postoperative complications were assessed.

Results Compared with baseline values, there was a significant increase in MAP in both the BID and ML groups which persisted significantly longer in the ML group. The BID group showed a significantly attenuated MAP value within 30–60 s. The difference between the maximum MAP and the post-induction value was significantly greater in the ML group than in the BID group (64.4 ± 16.1 vs. 45.9 ± 16.1 mmHg, P = 0.0003). Compared with baseline values, there was a significant increase in HR in both groups which persisted longer in the ML group. There was a significantly higher first attempt success rate in the BID group compared with the ML group (100 vs. 76%, respectively, P = 0.022). The NTI duration was 36 s [interquartile range (IQR) 32–40] in the BID group and 33 s (IQR 25.5–41.5) in the ML group. Epistaxis during NTI was less frequent and less severe in the BID group (P = 0.031).

Conclusion In adults with Mallampati class 3, NTI using the BID caused an attenuated haemodynamic response and showed a higher success rate on the first attempt without increasing adverse events. The BID is an effective alternative to the Macintosh laryngoscope for NTI in anaesthetised adults with Mallampati class 3.

Trial registration identifier: NCT 01170455.

From the Department of Anaesthesiology, Shanghai Ninth People's Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China

Correspondence to Hong Jiang, MD, PhD, Department of Anaesthesiology, Shanghai Ninth People's Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, 639 Zhi Zao Ju Road, Shanghai 200011, China Tel: +86 21 2327 1699; e-mail:

Published online 5 October 2011

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Although there is a variety of available devices for difficult nasotracheal intubation (NTI), the alternatives for patients with a restricted mouth opening are still limited.1 As the NTI-guided transillumination technique was first described,2 handmade prototype devices3 and commercially manufactured lightwands1,4,5 have been reported. However, handmade devices have little importance, as they are not generally available. The use of a lightwand is more difficult for NTI than oral intubation. This is also true for an RAE tracheal tube which is longer than a lightwand.5,6

It is critical in transillumination-guided NTI that the tip of the ‘lighted introducer’ should bypass the epiglottis and be elevated to the glottis inlet.7 The Blind Intubation Device (BID, Anhui Xiao Shan Hygienic Material Co. Ltd, Ji Xi County, China) was designed with these considerations in mind.8 The BID consists of a battery cell, an oesophagus airway and a lighted catheter (Fig. 1). The shape of the oesophagus airway is compatible with the nasopharyngeal curve, allowing easy insertion into the oesophagus. Six centimetres from the distal end is an elliptical ventilation hole with a 30° ramp which allows elevation of the lighted catheter and facilitates entry into the trachea (Fig. 2). The lighted catheter is 70 cm long with a 30° curve-tipped, flexible bougie and an external diameter of 3.5 mm. When passing through the oesophagus airway, the total upward angle would be nearly 60° in patients with higher laryngeal prominence. The BID has a high rate of success in awake NTI for oral and maxillofacial surgery patients with difficult airways. The BID is disposable and relatively inexpensive (approximately US$ 40). However, BID use in anaesthetised adults has not yet been studied.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

The Mallampati classification system estimates the size of the tongue relative to the oral cavity.9 A high Mallampati class signifies unfavourable oropharyngeal anatomy for direct laryngoscopy.10 Haemodynamic responses and airway complications are more severe when intubation is difficult or emergent.11,12 BID-guided NTI is independent of direct laryngoscopy and we, therefore, hypothesised that it would be effective in patients with Mallampati class 3. We also hypothesised that BID may cause less haemodynamic changes due to the avoidance of direct stimulation induced by the Macintosh blade.

The primary endpoint under investigation in the present study was the haemodynamic response to NTI. In addition, intubation duration, first-attempt success rate and associated airway complications were compared between groups.

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Patients and methods

The present study was approved by the Scientific Research Projects Approval Determination of Independent Ethics Committee of Shanghai Ninth People's Hospital (201026) and was registered at Clinical (NCT 01170455).

Consecutive normotensive patients with American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) classification of I or II, between 18 and 60 years old and requiring NTI as part of their anaesthetic management for elective oral and maxillofacial surgery, were screened. During the preoperative visit, the anaesthesiologist noted the patient's modified Mallampati class13 (evaluated while the patient was in the sitting position, with mouth open as wide as possible and tongue protruded maximally without phonation). Those who were classified with a Mallampati class 3 were enrolled. Patients were excluded if an awake NTI was planned (i.e. thyromental distance < 6 cm, inter-incisor distance < 3.5 cm, BMI > 30 kg m−2, neck scars, restricted neck movements or retrognathia). All patients who had oesophageal disease and severe obstructive sleep apnea were excluded. Patients with a history of previous head and neck surgeries were also excluded. Written consent was obtained from all participants. During preoperative interviews, patients were asked which nostril was more unobstructed. If both nostrils were equal and the surgeon had no objection, the right side was chosen.14 Patients were randomly assigned to either a Macintosh laryngoscope group (ML group) or a BID group by computer-generated randomisation codes. All NTIs were practiced by an attending anaesthesiologist experienced with both intubation devices (>100 NTIs with both the Macintosh laryngoscope and the BID).

No preanaesthetic medication was administered. In the operating room, an intravenous infusion of lactated Ringer's solution was started to manage fluid loss from the overnight fast. Cannulation of the radial artery of the right arm with a G22 gauge catheter was performed under local anaesthesia for continuous haemodynamic readings. Mean arterial pressure (MAP), heart rate (HR) and lead II ECG were measured with a multifunction monitor (Spacelabs, Spacelabs Medical, Issaquah, Washington, USA). Other monitoring included SpO2 and end-expiratory carbon dioxide (PetCO2). In both groups, the patient was placed in the supine position with neutral head and flexed neck over a 7-cm thick pillow. Prior to anaesthesia induction, the nasal mucosa was well prepared with 1% tetracaine hydrochloride jelly for 2 min and five drops of ephedrine hydrochloride nitrofurazone (containing approximately 2-mg ephedrine) in all patients. After a stabilisation period of 10 min, baseline haemodynamic values were recorded by a digital camera. Induction agents included fentanyl (2 μg kg−1) and propofol (2 mg kg−1). Upon loss of consciousness and jaw relaxation, manual ventilation was initiated. If manual ventilation was successful, rocuronium (0.6 mg kg−1) was administrated and post-induction values were recorded 5 min after induction. Unsuccessful manual ventilation led to study exclusion. Preformed endotracheal tubes (ETTs) (RAENasal, Mallinckrodt Medical, Athlone, Ireland; ID 6.5 mm in female and ID 7.0 mm in male patients) were used in current study, as it seemed to be used more frequently for oral and maxillofacial surgery.

In the ML group, NTI was performed in a conventional manner.15 First, a preformed ETT well lubricated with 1% tetracaine hydrochloride jelly was inserted into the nostril and advanced to the nasopharynx. Second, a standard Macintosh No.3 or No.4 curved blade was inserted into the patient's mouth to expose the glottis. If necessary, the BURP manoeuvre (backward, upward, right-sided pressure) on the thyroid cartilage was attempted to obtain good glottis visibility.16 Third, the preformed ETT was inserted into the trachea with the aid of Magill's forceps or head flexion, if necessary.

The procedure for BID was as follows. First, after being well lubricated with 1% tetracaine hydrochloride jelly, an oesophagus airway was inserted into the nostril and advanced into the oesophagus until an adequate depth (18 cm for female and 20 cm for male patients). If resistance was felt, the patient's neck was slightly flexed to facilitate oesophagus insertion. Second, the lighted catheter (powered by a battery cell) was inserted through the oesophagus airway. A slight chin lift manoeuvre was applied by a second assistant. A central glow above the laryngeal prominence that could not be moved downward indicated the possibility that the lighted catheter may be impeded in the epiglottic vallecula. In this case, the oesophagus airway was moved slightly downward. If the glow was unclear or absent in the neck during the downward movement, the lighted catheter was inserted into the oesophagus. This indicated that the ventilation hole might be under the glottis and, thus, we pulled the oesophagus airway out slightly.17,18 A bright, well circumscribed circle of glow in the midline at the level of the laryngeal prominence and disappearance at the level of the suprasternal notch indicated that the lighted catheter had passed through the glottis.3,8,17,18 Third, the battery cell was detached, and the oesophagus airway was removed carefully. Fourth, a well lubricated preformed ETT was stretched and guided over the lighted catheter. The ETT was rotated 90° counter clockwise for effectively facilitating advancement into the trachea, if resistance was met.

We stopped any attempt which lasted more than 60 s or which was associated with peripheral oxygen saturation of less than 90% or oesophagus intubation. In the case of an unsuccessful attempt, 100% oxygenation was given through a facemask for 3 min before the next attempt. Failure to intubate was defined as the inability to place the preformed ETT into the trachea after two unsuccessful attempts. At this point, the patient was excluded from NTI characteristics analysis and the other device was attempted. If this failed, fiberoptic NTI was performed by a senior attending anaesthesiologist. In both groups, successful NTI was confirmed with auscultation and end-tidal capnography. Anaesthesia was maintained with sevoflurane and intravenous fentanyl and rocuronium. The presence of persistent bleeding and severe mucosal or dental trauma were considered an indication for discontinuation of the procedure and exclusion from further study.

An observer using a digital camera collected haemodynamic response data every 15 s for the first 60 s of intubation. Data were then recorded every 30 s for an additional 4 min. The maximum values of MAP during observation were also recorded. Additionally, intubation duration, defined as the time from insertion of the device (ETT or oesophagus airway) into the nostril to the time when the preformed ETT was placed, was recorded by a second observer using a stopwatch. Five minutes after intubation, a third observer, who was blinded to group assignment, evaluated the severity of epistaxis. Epistaxis was estimated according to the distance blood travelled up the suction catheter and tube: none (no blood aspirated); mild (blood aspirated by <50 cm); moderate (blood aspirated by 50–300 cm); and severe (blood aspirated by >300 cm).14,19 The number of attempts and episodes of hypoxia during intubation (oxygen saturation less than 90%) was recorded with knowledge of group assignment.

An anaesthetist blinded to group assignment administered a questionnaire to all patients 24 h after the procedure. The questionnaire assessed nasal pain, sore throat and hoarseness on a 10-point visual analogue pain scale (VAS: 0 = none, 10 = worst).18,20

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Statistical analysis

Sample size estimations were based on differences in MAP and HR. A difference of 20 mmHg or 20 beats/min in MAP or HR was considered clinically important. Given an expected SD of ±20 for MAP and HR from previous studies18 and accepting a two-tailed α-error of 5% and β-error of 20%, we estimated that 21 patients would be required in each group. To compensate for patients who would drop out of the study, 25 patients were enrolled in each group.

Data were analysed with Prism 5.0 for Windows (GraphPad Software Inc., La Jolla, California, USA) to calculate mean, SD, median and the interquartile range (IQR). Parametric data were compared using an unpaired t-test. Non-parametric data were analysed with the Mann–Whitney U-test. The rate of success on the first attempt was compared with Fisher's exact tests. Haemodynamic changes within each group were analysed with one-way analysis of variance for repeated measures. Dunnett's multiple comparisons were used to test the difference between the baseline and post-induction values and measurement taken at the different time points. The χ2-test for trend was used to compare the severity of epistaxis between the ML and BID groups. A P value less than 0.05 was considered significant.

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A total of 57 eligible patients were interviewed 1 day before operation over a 2-month period. However, seven patients were excluded either because they refused to participate (n = 4) or the operations were delayed (n = 3). Thus, 50 eligible patients were enrolled for randomisation. However, four patients in the ML group were excluded from further study because NTI failed after two attempts. Therefore, only 46 patients were analysed for haemodynamic values and NTI-associated adverse events (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3

Fig. 3

There was no significant difference between the ML and BID groups in age, sex distribution, weight, height or BMI (Table 1). The overall success rate of NTI was 100% in the BID group and 84% in the ML group (Table 2). There was a significantly higher first attempt success rate in the BID group compared with the ML group (100 vs. 76%, respectively, P = 0.022) (Table 2). The NTI duration was 36 s (IQR 32–40) in the BID group and 33 s (IQR 25.5–41.5) in the ML group (Table 1).

Table 1

Table 1

Table 2

Table 2

After anaesthesia induction, MAP decreased significantly compared with baseline values in both groups, whereas there was no significant change in HR. Following this initial decrease, there was a significant increase in MAP observed in both groups within 15–240 s after induction. Compared with baseline values, the increase in MAP persisted longer (within 30–90 s) in the ML group than in the BID group (60 s). In addition, the ML group showed a significantly higher MAP value compared with the BID group within the 30–60 s period (Fig. 4). The difference between the maximum MAP and the post-induction value was significantly greater in the ML group than in the BID group (64.4 ± 16.1 vs. 45.9 ± 16.1 mmHg, P = 0.0003, Table 1). A significant HR increase was observed within 45–180 s after NTI in the ML group and within 45–120 s after NTI in the BID group. There was no significant difference in HR at any time points between groups (Fig. 5).

Fig. 4

Fig. 4

Fig. 5

Fig. 5

Epistaxis during NTI was less frequent and less severe in the BID group than in the ML group (P = 0.031, Table 1). Nasal pain, hoarseness and sore throat were self-limited adverse events and occurred similarly in both groups (Table 1). There was no persistent bleeding, severe mucosal or dental trauma or hypoxemia observed with NTI.

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The three main causes of the haemodynamic response to NTI are the stimulation of the nasopharyngeal structures, oropharyngeal structures and trachea induced by laryngoscopy or ETTs.21,22 The current study clearly showed that NTI using BID caused a smaller and shorter haemodynamic response compared with Macintosh laryngoscope in anaesthetised Mallampati class 3 adults. The results strongly demonstrate that the BID technique may provide clinical advantages in attenuating the haemodynamic responses to NTI.

Prior research has shown that a higher Mallampati class indicates a greater rate of unfavourable events associated with Macintosh laryngoscope.10 For enhanced glottic exposure, it was necessary to increase the upward lifting force of the Macintosh blade and to compress the laryngeal prominence that distorted the oropharynx structure. The haemodynamic response to NTI could be significantly attenuated by reducing the upward lifting force of the laryngoscope.23 On the contrary, BID-guided NTI avoided direct laryngoscopy which minimised stimuli applied to the oropharyngeal structures during intubation.18 In addition, Magill's forceps were often used to direct the tip of the ETT through the glottis in the ML group.15 It is also likely that the curve of the ETT was causing the tip to abut the anterior laryngeal wall due to the anterior elevation of the larynx during invasive laryngoscopy, necessitating a combination of manoeuvres such as withdrawing the tube slightly and flexing the neck to facilitate ETT advancement. In contrast, the BID-guided NTI resulted in far less distortion of the anterior airway anatomy than the Macintosh laryngoscope. The shape of the oesophagus airway is in alignment with the nasopharyngeal curve. The lighted catheter is soft and flexible and could slide into the vocal cords easily with minor adjustment of the oesophagus airway.18 Furthermore, ETT insertion over the lighted catheter potentially provided a more direct route from the nasopharynx to the trachea, consequently causing a lesser haemodynamic response. Moreover, the BID technique comprises a ‘deliberate oesophagus insertion then withdraw’ procedure to bypass the epiglottis and locate the ventilation hole below it. Through this method, BID avoids the jaw thrust or jaw lift manoeuvre necessary to elevate the epiglottis from the posterior wall of the pharynx in lightwand-guided intubation. These manoeuvres are sufficient to cause a haemodynamic responses to elevate the epiglottis from the posterior wall of pharynx which is necessary in lightwand-guided intubation.1,24,25

Although trachea irritation caused by ETT produced a marked hypertensive response in both groups, the BID group showed significantly attenuated haemodynamic changes during the period from 30 to 60 s after NTI. Moreover, the maximum fluctuation of MAP in the BID group was also significantly attenuated. These results indicated that in Mallampati class 3 patients, the overall stimulation as a result of BID-guided NTI was less than that of Macintosh laryngoscope. The present study also showed moderate fluctuations in HR. There was an initial decrease in HR which was most likely caused by the stimulus of the nasal cavity mucosa evoking a nasal cardiac reflex. Although these results confirmed our initial hypothesis, it should be emphasised that the dosage of fentanyl and propfol used in the study could not sufficiently inhibit the haemodynamic response to NTI in either device, and further study is needed.

BID-guided NTI had a higher first attempt success rate than procedures performed with the Macintosh laryngoscope. Moreover, four patients initially assigned to the direct laryngoscope group were eventually intubated successfully with BID on the first attempt. Three patients (No. 1, 6 and 12) exhibited a Cormark–Lehane grade 4 glottic view even after the BURP manoeuvre was applied and could not be intubated through the Macintosh laryngoscope approach. In one patient (No. 15), the ETT could not be adequately aligned with the glottis even with the help of Magill's forceps despite good laryngoscopy. The NTI failed because the tip of the ETT deviated from the glottis inlet and oesophagus intubation accidentally occurred twice when the patient's head was flexed. The patient was eventually easily intubated on the first attempt with the BID. These results clearly demonstrate that the BID could serve as a promising backup alternative for failed NTI. The median time required for NTI was about 3 s longer in the BID group than in the ML group which was most likely due to the additional oesophagus airway placement prior to ETT intubation. However, a 3-s delay does not represent a major drawback, although a high success rate of intubation and a low frequency of airway complications are more crucial.

The most common NTI complication is epistaxis induced by the conventional ETT sharp-edged Murphy eye.14,26 The present study indicated that the BID was effective in reducing epistaxis during NTI despite two nasal insertions. Previous studies have suggested that epistaxis associated with NTI can be prevented by use of a curve-tipped suction catheter for guidance,27 mechanical dilation of nasopharyngeal airways28 and an oesophageal stethoscope-obturated ETT.14 In the BID group, the first insertion of the oesophagus airway seldom caused epistaxis (most likely due to a round and soft tip). In addition, the oesophagus airway also served as a nasal cavity dilator. The second nasal insertion of the ETT was guided by the lighted catheter which may also reduced nasal damage.27 There were no significant differences in the occurrence of nasal pain, sore throat or hoarseness between the BID and ML groups. However, surgical procedures tend to cause similar symptoms which may confound the results. In addition, these variables were our secondary endpoints in the present study. Further specific investigation is required to more thoroughly investigate this issue.

A potential advantage of the BID is that the patient can be ventilated until the lighted catheter is inserted into the trachea successfully. The oesophagus airway is a nasopharyngeal ventilation device and has been used as a nasal airway rescue device in a critical event.29 Furthermore, the oesophagus airway can be connected to a standard anaesthetic circuit. Moreover, the 3.5-mm lighted catheter can easily be aligned with the suction hole of an extension tube (Breathing System, Tyco Healthcare, Mallinckrodt Dar S.r.l, Italy) (Fig. 6). Passage through the suction hole allows mechanical ventilation through the oesophagus airway and monitoring of PetCO2 while the patient's mouth is sealed by adhesive plaster. Nofal3 reported this type of approach to oxygenate the patient during an awake NTI. We have found that, with a simple modification (sealing the mouth and nose), these procedures are effective for mechanical ventilation. The patients in the current study were intubated successfully within 60 s with no hypoxia precluding the necessity of this method. However, the ability to provide continuous mechanical ventilation can be of great benefit in cardiorespiratory compromised patients or prolonged BID-guided NTI.

Fig. 6

Fig. 6

An important factor in determining the success of BID-guided NTI is accurate depth of the oesophagus airway. Previous clinical experience has shown very small inter-patient deviation in the depth of oesophagus airway (about 20 cm for male and 18 cm for female patients), suggesting that we can easily apply these two constants on the basis of sex. In addition, the depth of the oesophagus airway can be adjusted according to the location of the glow as mentioned in the methods section.

The major limitation of the current study is, first, the lack of a lightwand control group. The lightwand is a widely accepted technique and should be directly compared to any new transillumination device. Second, the use of patients with Mallampati class 3 alone has only moderate diagnostic value.10,12,30 Further study to assess the performance of the BID in patients with more difficult laryngoscopy problems is required. Third, patients with cardiovascular diseases and hypertension were excluded from the present study. These patients may need greater protection from the stress reaction induced by NTI and this issue should be addressed in future studies. Finally, there was only one operator performing the procedures in the current study and, thus, the results may be biased by the anaesthesiologist's distinctive techniques.

In summary, the use of the BID in NTI leads to attenuated haemodynamic responses, a higher first-attempt success rate and decreased epistaxis as compared with Macintosh laryngoscope use. We conclude that in experienced hands, the BID is an effective alternative to the Macintosh laryngoscope for NTI in anaesthetised adults with Mallampati class 3.

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This work was entirely funded by department internal resources. Both H.J. and Y.-S.Z. are the inventors of the BID. They were authorised by the Chinese Ministry of Health for BID-guided NTI technique promotion programs. No person involved in this study has any financial relationship with Anhui Xiao Shan Hygienic Material Co. Ltd.

The authors would like to thank all participants in this study for their willing cooperation.

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airways; anaesthesia; blind intubation; nasotracheal; transillumination

© 2011 European Society of Anaesthesiology