Authors

  1. Department of Anesthesiology, VU University Medical Center, De Boelelaan 1117, 1007 MB, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
  2. Trauma Center, HEMS Lifeliner 1, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
  3. Department of Anesthesiology, VU University Medical Center, De Boelelaan 1117, 1007 MB, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. L.Schwarte@vumc.nl.
  4. Trauma Center, HEMS Lifeliner 1, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. L.Schwarte@vumc.nl.

BMC Emergency Medicine is an open access, peer-reviewed journal that considers articles on all urgent and emergency aspects of medicine, in both practice and basic research. In addition, the journal covers aspects of disaster medicine and medicine in special locations, such as conflict areas and military medicine, together with articles concerning healthcare services in the emergency departments.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Creating a patent airway by cricothyrotomy is the ultimate maneuver to allow oxygenation (and ventilation) of the patient. Given the rarity of airway management catastrophes necessitating cricothyrotomy, sufficiently sized prospective randomized trials are difficult to perform. Our Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) documents all cases electronically, allowing a retrospective analysis of a larger database for all cases of prehospital cricothyrotomy.

METHODS:

We analyzed all 19,382 dispatches of our HEMS ‘Lifeliner 1’, since set-up of a searchable digital database. This HEMS operates 24/7, covering ~ 4.5 million inhabitants of The Netherlands. The potential cases were searched and cross-checked in two independent databases.

RESULTS:

We recorded n = 18 cases of prehospital cricothyrotomy. In all 18 cases, less invasive airway techniques, e.g., supraglottic devices, were attempted before cricothyrotomy. With exception of 2 cases, at least one attempt of orotracheal intubation had been performed before cricothyrotomy. Out of the 18 cases, 4 were performed by puncture-based technique (Melker), the remaining 14 cases by surgical technique. Indications for cricothyrotomy were diverse, dividable into 9 trauma cases and 9 medical cases. The procedure was successful in all but one case (17/18, i.e., 94%; with a 95% confidence interval of 72.7-99.9%). Outcome was such that 6/18 patients arrived at the hospital alive. Long term outcome was poor, with only 2/18 patients discharged from hospital alive.

CONCLUSIONS:

Cricothyrotomy remains, although rare, a regularly occurring requirement in (H)EMS. Our finding of a convincingly high success rate of 94% in trained hands encourages training and a timely performance of cricothyrotomy.

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