Predicting Difficult Intubation with Indirect Laryngoscopy


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Abstract

BackgroundIt is not always possible to predict when tracheal intubation will be difficult or impossible. The authors wanted to determine whether indirect laryngoscopy could identify patients in whom intubation was difficult.MethodsIndirect laryngoscopy was done in 2,504 patients. The Wilson risk sum score and the modified Mallampati score were also studied in a different series of 3,680 patients for comparison. These predictive methods were compared according to three parameters: positive predictive value, sensitivity, and specificity.ResultsOf 6,184 patients studied, the trachea proved difficult to intubate in 82 (1.3%). Positive predictive value (31%) and specificity (98.4%) with indirect laryngoscopy were greater than the other two predictive methods (P < 0.01), whereas sensitivity with indirect laryngoscopy (69.2%) was greater than that of the Wilson risk sum score (55.4%) (P < 0.01).ConclusionsAlthough in 15% of patients indirect laryngoscopy could not be performed because of excessive gag reflex, indirect laryngoscopy can serve as an effective method to predict difficult intubation.

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