Fiberoptic Intubation in 327 Neurosurgical Patients With Lesions of the Cervical Spine

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SummaryIn patients with lesions of the cervical spine, direct laryngoscopy for endotracheal intubation entails the risk of injuring the spinal cord. In an attempt to avoid this complication, the authors used flexible fiberoptic nasal intubation in a series of 327 patients with cervical lesions undergoing elective neurosurgical procedures. The nasal route was preferred for laryngeal intubation because it is easier than the oral route and a restraining collar or halo device does not impair the intubating maneuver. Bronchoscopic intubation was possible in all patients. In 12 patients (3.6%), anatomic abnormalities prevented transnasal insertion of the endotracheal tube, and transoral fiberoptic intubation was necessary. Endotracheal intubation was graded as slightly difficult in 85 patients (26%). The minimal peripheral oxygen saturation during intubation exceeded 90% in 289 patients (88%). In the other 38 patients, the mean O2 saturation was 84.2 ± 4.3% (range, 72–89%). Intubation was well tolerated by all patients and none had recall of the procedure. Cervical stabilizers did not have to be removed for intubation in any patient. None of the patients had postoperative neurologic deficits attributable to the intubation procedure. The authors consider fiberoptic transnasal intubation to be a useful alternative to direct laryngoscopic tracheal intubation in patients undergoing elective surgical procedures on the cervical spine to avoid potential injury to the cervical spinal cord.

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