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Airway management in cervical spinal cord injured patients: a survey of European emergency physicians' clinical practice

Souvatzis, Xeniaa; Askitopoulou, Helena b

European Journal of Emergency Medicine: December 2008 - Volume 15 - Issue 6 - p 344-347
doi: 10.1097/MEJ.0b013e3282f4d18a
Short Reports

No European airway management guidelines are currently specific to patients with cervical spinal cord injury (CSCI). The objectives of this study were to determine the clinical practice of European emergency physicians and anaesthesiologists regarding airway management in patients with CSCI. A questionnaire survey was completed by the participants of the fourth European Congress on Emergency Medicine regarding the preferred intubation techniques and the relevant skills, as well as airway management manoeuvres that, in the physician's opinion, caused the least and the greatest cervical spine movement. A total of 115 questionnaires from physicians from 15 European countries were returned. The most preferred techniques for tracheal intubation in patients with CSCI were the use of direct laryngoscopy, awake nasal intubation with a fibreoptic bronchoscope, and the use of the intubating and standard laryngeal mask airway, in descending order. Not all emergency physicians were skilled in an alternative intubation technique to direct laryngoscopy, in contrast to the anaesthesiologists, who were all familiar with at least the standard laryngeal mask airway. More than half of the physicians considered that the fibreoptic bronchoscope provided the least cervical spine movement. However, most of the physicians who indicated the use of the fibreoptic bronchoscope as their preferred technique, were not skilled in its use. Furthermore, two-thirds of the respondents did not recognise that mask ventilation causes considerable cervical spine movement. Emergency physicians need better training in airway management to anticipate problems in patients with CSCI.

aDepartment of Anaesthesiology, University Hospital of Heraklion

bDepartment of Anaesthesiology, Medical School, University of Crete, Crete, Greece

Corresponding to Dr Xenia Souvatzis, MD, PhD, Consultant, Department of Anaesthesiology, University Hospital of Heraklion, PO Box 1352, Heraklion 71110, Crete, Greece

Tel: +30 2810 822390; fax: +30 2810 392409;


Received 6 August 2007 Accepted 25 November 2007

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.