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A randomised study was carried out to compare the efficacy of the gum elastic bougie and the stylet in a simulated difficult intubation. A laryngoscopic assessment, as described by Cormack and Lehane, was made in 100 patients. A Grade 3 view was then simulated. In the Bougie First Group (50 patients) two attempts were made to pass a gum elastic bougie and a tracheal tube into the trachea. If these first two attempts were not successful, two further attempts at intubation were allowed with a stylet placed in the tracheal tube. In the Stylet First Group (50 patients) the order was reversed. After two attempts the tube was correctly placed in the trachea in 96% of cases in the Bougie First Group compared to only 66% of cases in the Stylet First Group (p < 0.001). We recommend that a gum elastic bougie should be readily available and that anaesthetists should use it in preference to a stylet whenever a good view of the glottis is not immediately available.