A Retrospective Study of Success, Failure, and Time Needed to Perform Awake Intubation

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Background:Awake intubation is the standard of care for management of the anticipated difficult airway. The performance of awake intubation may be perceived as complex and time-consuming, potentially leading clinicians to avoid this technique of airway management. This retrospective review of awake intubations at a large academic medical center was performed to determine the average time taken to perform awake intubation, its effects on hemodynamics, and the incidence and characteristics of complications and failure.Methods:Anesthetic records from 2007 to 2014 were queried for the performance of an awake intubation. Of the 1,085 awake intubations included for analysis, 1,055 involved the use of a flexible bronchoscope. Each awake intubation case was propensity matched with two controls (1:2 ratio), with similar comorbidities and intubations performed after the induction of anesthesia (n = 2,170). The time from entry into the operating room until intubation was compared between groups. The anesthetic records of all patients undergoing awake intubation were also reviewed for failure and complications.Results:The median time to intubation for patients intubated post induction was 16.0 min (interquartile range: 13 to 22) from entrance into the operating room. The median time to intubation for awake patients was 24.0 min (interquartile range: 19 to 31). The complication rate was 1.6% (17 of 1,085 cases). The most frequent complications observed were mucous plug, endotracheal tube cuff leak, and inadvertent extubation. The failure rate for attempted awake intubation was 1% (n = 10).Conclusions:Awake intubations have a high rate of success and low rate of serious complications and failure. Awake intubations can be performed safely and rapidly.

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