Oral endotracheal intubation is the gold standard when a field airway is needed. However, they are not always possible due to protocol, training, patient anatomy or specific injuries. To allow airway support in these situations, a number of techniques and devices have been developed. The problem is, do we really know which one(s) are best?
To try to answer this question, a huge meta-analysis of all the English literature with information on success rates for these techniques was carried out. Over 2000 papers were identified, and they were narrowed down to 35 studies involving over 10,000 patients.
The success rates that they identified were as follows:
- King LT airway - 96.5%
- Esophageal Obturator / Esophageal Gastric Tube Airway - 92.6%
- Surgical cricothyroidotomy - 90.5%
- Laryngeal mask airway (LMA) 87.4%
- Combitube - 85.4%
- Pharyngeotrachael laryngeal airway (PTLA) - 82.1%
- Needle cricothyroidotomy - 65.8%
The Bottom Line: The King airway has the highest success rate of the alternative airway devices, although there was less data available and the effectiveness of ventilation has not been worked out yet. The best percutaneous rescue airway was the surgical crich.
Reference: A Meta-Analysis of Prehospital Airway Control Techniques Part II: Alternative Airway Devices and Cricothyrotomy Success Rates. Prehospital Emergency Care 14(4):515-530, Oct-Dec 2010.