Guidelines for emergency tracheal intubation immediately after traumatic injury.
OBJECTIVE To analyze flight crew airway management in four different settings (in flight, at trauma scenes, in ambulance, and in referring hospitals) and in two different aircraft used by the same helicopter EMS (HEMS) service. The null hypothesis was that there was no association between practice setting, or aircraft, and airway practices or success rate. METHODS This retrospective study analyzed all patients in whom advanced airway management was attempted by the HEMS service during the study period October 1991 through October 1997. Data used were from flight records of Boston MedFlight Critical Care Transport Service, which uses a nurse/paramedic crew and had a paralytic-assisted intubation protocol in place. Data were analyzed with chi-square and Fisher's exact testing, risk ratio analysis, and logistic regression. RESULTS Advanced airway management was attempted in 722 patients, with an airway placed in 705 (97.8%). Intubation success was unrelated to site of airway management (p = 0.14), but patients were more likely to have intubation attempted prior to flight (as opposed to in flight) if the crew were in the AS365N2 Dauphin as compared with the BK-117 (p<0.0001). In addition, patients were 0.77 times as likely (95% confidence interval, 0.68-0.88) to receive paralytic-facilitated intubation if airway management occurred in the hospital setting as compared with other sites. CONCLUSIONS While HEMS crew airway management success rates are equally high in all practice settings, airway management decision making and practice appear to be significantly influenced by practice setting and aircraft type. These data support contentions that nonphysician HEMS crews can effectively manage airways in a variety of circumstances.