Objectives: The recent introduction of a disposable laryngeal mask airway has provided paramedics with an alternative to endotracheal intubation. Time taken to secure the airway with each device was compared in patients undergoing elective surgery.
Methods: Patients undergoing general anaesthesia were studied. Paramedics trained in laryngeal mask use and endotracheal intubation participated in the study. A Portex disposable laryngeal mask was inserted and removed, followed by a Portex endotracheal tube. Time taken from beginning of the procedure to ventilation of the patient was recorded.
Results: Laryngeal mask insertion and endotracheal intubation was attempted on 52 patients. Median age was 63.5 years (range 39–83). Laryngeal mask insertion was successful in 88.5% (46 of 52) patients; endotracheal intubation was successful in 71.2% (37 of 52) patients (after no more than two attempts), p = 0.049. Intubation success was related to laryngoscopic view (87.5% grade 1, 56.3% grade 2, 0.0% grade 3. p<0.0001). When laryngeal mask/endotracheal tube insertion were both successful (n = 35 of 52), there was no significant difference in median time to secure the airway (laryngeal mask 47.0 seconds (range 24–126) compared with endotracheal tube 52.0 seconds (range 27–148) p = 0.22). Laryngeal mask insertion was successful in 80.0% (12 of 15) patients in whom endotracheal intubation had failed.
Conclusions: Even under optimal conditions, 30% of attempts at intubation by paramedics were unsuccessful. A disposable laryngeal mask has a higher success rate in securing the airway and overall, secures the airway more reliably than endotracheal intubation.
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Conflict of interest: this research was funded by an unrestricted educational grant from Smiths Medical Ltd. CD is a medical advisor to Smiths Medical Ltd.
The results of the initial 44 patients from this study were submitted as an abstract to the 7th Scientific Congress of the European Resuscitation Council, Budapest, September 2004.