Current practice of rapid sequence induction of anaesthesia in the UK - a national survey

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Abstract

Background

The ‘classical’ technique of rapid sequence induction (RSI) of anaesthesia was described in 1970. With the introduction of new drugs and equipment in recent years, a wide variation in this technique has been used. The role of cricoid pressure is controversial because of the lack of scientific evidence. Moreover, gentle mask ventilation has been recommended in situations such as obesity and critically ill patients, to prevent hypoxaemia during the apnoeic period. In identifying multiple techniques, we conducted a national postal survey to establish the current practice of RSI in the UK.

Methods

A survey consisting of 17 questions was created and posted to 255 National Health Service (NHS) hospitals in the UK. We included two copies of the questionnaire in each envelope; one to be completed by the airway lead (consultant anaesthetist with responsibility of overseeing the standard of airway training and implementing national airway guidelines and recommendations within their institution) and the other by a trainee in the same department. The difference in responses from consultants and trainees were assessed using the χ2 test and the Fisher's exact test.

Results

In total we received 272 responses (response rate 53%) of which 266 (58% from consultants and 42% from trainees) were analysed. A majority of the respondents (68%) pre-oxygenated by monitoring end-tidal oxygen concentration and 76% of the respondents use 20–25° head up tilt for all RSIs. Propofol is the most commonly used induction agent (64% of all respondents). Opioid has been used by 80% of respondents and only 18% of respondents use suxamethonium for all patients and others choose rocuronium or suxamethonium based on clinical situation. Although 92% of anaesthetists use cricoid pressure, 83% of them never objectively measure the force used. During the apnoeic period 17% of the respondents use gentle mask ventilation.

Conclusions

Our survey demonstrated a persistent variation in the practice of RSI amongst the anaesthetists in the UK. The ‘classical’ technique of RSI is now seldom used. Therefore there is a clear need for developing consistent guidelines for the practice of RSI.

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