Emergency surgical airway management in Denmark: a cohort study of 452 461 patients registered in the Danish Anaesthesia Database

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The emergency surgical airway (ESA) is the final option in difficult airway management. We identified ESA procedures registered in the Danish Anaesthesia Database (DAD) and described the performed airway management.


We extracted a cohort of 452 461 adult patients undergoing general anaesthesia and tracheal intubation from the DAD from June 1, 2008 to March 15, 2014. Difficult airway management involving an ESA was retrieved for analysis and compared with hospitals files. Two independent reviewers evaluated airway management according to the ASAs'2003 practice guideline for difficult airway management.


In the DAD cohort 27 out of 452 461 patients had an ESA representing an incidence of 0.06 events per thousand (95% CI; 0.04 to 0.08). A total of 12 149/452 461 patients underwent Ear-Nose and Throat (ENT) surgery, giving an ESA incidence among ENT patients of 1.6 events per thousand (95% CI; 1.0–2.4). A Supraglottic Airway Device and/or the administration of a neuromuscular blocking agent before ESA were used as a rescue in 6/27 and 13/27 of the patients, respectively. In 19/27 patients ENT surgeons performed the ESA's and anaesthetists attempted 6/27 of the ESAs of which three failed. Reviewers evaluated airway management as satisfactory in 10/27 patients.


The incidence of ESA in the DAD cohort was 0.06 events per thousand. Among ENT patients, the ESA Incidence was 1.6 events per thousand. Airway management was evaluated as satisfactory for 10/27 of the patients. ESA performed by anaesthetists failed in half of the patients.

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