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Manual in-line stabilisation is usually used during tracheal intubation of trauma patients to minimise movement of the cervical spine and prevent any further neurological injury. Use of a bougie in combination with laryngoscopy may reduce the forces exerted on the cervical spine.To evaluate the difference in force applied to the head and neck during tracheal intubation with a Macintosh laryngoscope with or without simultaneous use of a bougie.Randomised, crossover simulation study.Simulation laboratory, Anaesthetic Department, Queen's Hospital, Romford between March and April 2012.Twenty anaesthetists, all with a minimum of 1 year of anaesthetic experience.Participants used either a Macintosh laryngoscope alone, or in combination with a bougie in a Laerdal SimMan manikin with a simulated difficult airway and manual in-line stabilisation.The force exerted during laryngoscopy. Success rate and time taken to tracheal intubation were also measured.Significantly less force was exerted utilising a Macintosh laryngoscope in combination with a bougie compared with the laryngoscope alone (24.9 versus 44.5 N; P < 0.001). The trachea was successfully intubated on all occasions within 120 s. The use of a bougie was associated with a nonsignificant reduction in the time to tracheal intubation.To minimise the force of laryngoscopy and movement of a potentially unstable cervical spine injury, consideration should be given to the early use of a bougie.