A Comparison of 4 Airway Devices on Cervical Spine Alignment in Cadaver Models of Global Ligamentous Instability at C1-2

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BACKGROUND:The effects of advanced airway management on cervical spine alignment in patients with upper cervical spine instability are uncertain.METHODS:To examine the potential for mechanical disruption during endotracheal intubation in cadavers with unstable cervical spines, we performed a prospective observational cohort study with 3 cadaver subjects. We created an unstable, type II odontoid fracture with global ligamentous instability at C1-2 in lightly embalmed cadavers, followed by repetitive intubations with 4 different airway devices (Airtraq laryngoscope, Lightwand, intubating laryngeal mask airway [LMA], and Macintosh laryngoscope) while manual in-line stabilization was applied. Motion analysis data were collected using an electromagnetic device to assess the degree of angular movement in 3 axes (flexion-extension, axial rotation, and lateral bending) during the intubation trials with each device. Intubation was performed by either an emergency medical technician or attending anesthesiologist.RESULTS:Overall, 153 intubations were recorded with the 4 devices. The Lightwand technique resulted in significantly less flexion-extension and axial rotation at C1-2 than with the intubating LMA (mean difference in flexion-extension 3.2° [95% confidence interval {CI}, 0.9°–5.5°], P = 0.003; mean difference in axial rotation 1.6° [95% CI, 0.3°–2.8°], P = 0.01) and Macintosh laryngoscope (mean difference in flexion-extension 3.1° [95% CI, 0.8°–5.4°], P = 0.005; mean difference in axial rotation 1.4° [95% CI 0.1°–2.6°], P = 0.03).CONCLUSIONS:In cadavers with instability at C1-2, the Lightwand technique produced less motion than the Macintosh and intubating LMA.

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