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Should non-anaesthetists perform pre-hospital rapid sequence induction? an observational study
  1. J N Fullerton1,
  2. K J Roberts1,2,
  3. M Wyse1,2
  1. 1University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, Coventry, UK
  2. 2Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance, Princethorpe, Warwickshire, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr James Fullerton, 39 Westhill Close, Selly Oak, Birmingham B29 6QQ, UK; james.fullerton{at}


Introduction The use of rapid sequence induction and tracheal intubation (RSI) in the pre-hospital environment is controversial. Currently, it is felt that competence to perform RSI should be defined by skills in anaesthesia not by the primary speciality of a practitioner. This aim of the study was to evaluate the tracheal intubation success rate of doctors drawn from different clinical specialities performing RSI in the pre-hospital environment.

Method Retrospective review of all RSI performed by doctors operating on the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance over a 5-year period. Tracheal intubation failure rates were calculated and analysed for proportional differences between groups by χ2 and, where appropriate, Fisher's exact test.

Results 4362 active missions were flown. RSI was performed in 200 cases (4.6%, 3.1/month). Successful intubation occurred in 194 cases, giving a failure rate of 3% (6 cases, 95% CI 0.6 to 5.3%). While no difference in failure rate was observed between emergency department (ED) staff and anaesthetists (2.73% (3/110, 95% CI 0 to 5.7%) vs 0% (0/55, 95% CI 0 to 0%); p=0.55), a significant difference was found when non-ED, non-anaesthetic staff (GP and surgical) were compared to anaesthetists (10.34% (3/29, 95% CI 0 to 21.4%) vs 0%; p=0.04). There was no significant difference associated with seniority of practitioner (p=0.65).

Conclusions Non-anaesthetic practitioners have a higher tracheal intubation failure rate during pre-hospital RSI. This likely reflects a lack of training opportunities and infrequency of clinical experience. Strategies to improve pre-hospital airway management are required.

  • Helicopter emergency medical services
  • airway management
  • intubation
  • rapid-sequence induction
  • airway
  • anaesthesia
  • RSI
  • prehospital care
  • prehospital care
  • doctors in PHC

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.