Use-Dependent Curvature Changes in the GlideRite® Reusable Intubation Stylet

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The Glidescope® is one of the most widely used video laryngoscopes in the market. It is often used with a purpose-built, reusable, “nonmalleable” stainless steel stylet, the GlideRite®. In this study, we investigated whether this stylet retains its original curvature with repeated use and sterilization. To evaluate the shape and curvature of the stylets, high-resolution digital photographs were made of 55 GlideRite stylets (5 new and 50 randomly selected from operating room stock) laid on a grid background and analyzed using Adobe Photoshop®. In a similar fashion, 1 new stylet was inserted into and removed 100 times from an endotracheal tube and photographed every 20 cycles to determine the impact of use on stylet shape. For the 5 new stylets, the handle-to-tip angle was very consistent (23.44° ± 1.04°). The stylets in clinical use varied widely in their configuration. For analysis, they were divided into 3 groups based on the handle-to-tip angle: ±1 SD of the new stylets, those with a shallower angle (straighter), and those with a steeper angle (more curved). The handle-to-tip angles were as follows: 23.07° ± 0.80° (±1 SD), 18.39° ± 2.59° (straighter), and 27.65° ± 2.73° (more curved). Analysis of variance showed that the new and ±1 SD groups were not significantly different, but both the straighter (P = 0.0002) and more curved (P = 0.0048) groups were significantly different from new. The repeated insertion and removal of a new stylet resulted in gradual straightening of the curve of the stylet from 22° at baseline to 19.2° after 100 insertion/removal cycles. Used GlideRite reusable stylets are not reliably equivalent to new ones in terms of their shape or curvature. Given that the repeated insertion and removal of a new stylet from an endotracheal tube resulted in their straightening, it is likely that clinical use has the same effect. Because many used stylets were actually more curved than the new ones, we hypothesize that practitioners likely bend the nonmalleable stylets to improve clinical utility, but often fail to recapture the manufacturer-intended curve. The clinical relevance of the change in shape of the GlideRite stylet remains to be determined; it is that possible intubation may be more difficult than expected compared with the use of new stylets.

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