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The cuffed oropharyngeal airway (COPA), a modified Guedel airway, was compared with the laryngeal mask airway (LMA) during spontaneous breathing anesthesia. Specifically examined were ease of use, physiologic tolerance, and the frequency of problems.Adult patients consented to random (2:1) assignment to either COPA (n = 302) or LMA (n = 151) for airway management during anesthesia with propofol, nitrous oxide, and oxygen.Ease of insertion was similar, but the first-time successful insertion rate was higher with the LMA (COPA, 81% compared with LMA, 89%; P = 0.05). More brief manipulations (head tilt, chin lift, jaw thrust) were reported in the COPA group (average total number of manipulations: COPA, 1.1 +/- 1.6 compared with LMA, 0.1 +/- 0.2; P <0.001). Continuous airway support was used more frequently in the COPA group (COPA, 30% compared with LMA, 0%; P < 0.0005). The incidences of aspiration, regurgitation, laryngospasm, wheezing, succinylcholine administration, oxygen saturation (SpO2) < 92%, failed use, and minor intraoperative problems were similar. When the airways were removed, blood was detected on the COPA less frequently than on the LMA (COPA, 5.8% compared with LMA, 15.3%; P = 0.001). The incidence of early and late sore throat was greater with the LMA (early: COPA, 4.7% compared with LMA, 21.9% [P = 0.001]; late: COPA, 8.4% compared with LMA, 16.1%; P = 0.01). The LMA did better than the COPA when anesthetists analyzed the technical aspects of the two devices.Although the COPA and LMA are equivalent devices in terms of physiologic alterations and overall clinical problems associated with their use, the LMA was associated with a higher first-time insertion rate and fewer manipulations, suggesting that it is easier to use. The COPA was associated with less blood on the device and fewer sore throats, suggesting it may cause less pharyngeal trauma. Ultimately, both devices were similar in establishing a safe and effective airway for spontaneously breathing anesthetized adults.