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Although an emergency surgical airway is recommended in the guidelines for a paediatric cannot intubate, cannot oxygenate (CICO), there is currently no evidence regarding the best technique for this procedure.To review the available literature on the paediatric emergency surgical airway to give recommendations for establishing a best practice for this procedure.Systematic review: Considering the nature of the original studies, a meta-analysis was not possible.MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Web of Science, Google Scholar and LILACS databases.Studies addressing the paediatric emergency surgical airway and reporting the following outcomes: time to tracheal access, success rate, complications and perceived ease of use of the technique were included. Data were reported using a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats analysis. Strengths and Weaknesses describe the intrinsic (dis)advantages of the techniques. The opportunities and threats describe the (dis)advantage of the techniques in the setting of a paediatric CICO scenario.Five studies described four techniques: catheter over needle, wire-guided, cannula or scalpel technique. Mean time for placement of a definitive airway was 44 s for catheter over needle, 67.3 s for the cannula and 108.7 s for the scalpel technique. No time was reported for the wire-guided technique. Success rates were 43 (10/23), 100 (16/16), 56 (87/154) and 88% (51/58), respectively. Complication rates were 34 (3/10), 69 (11/16), 36 (55/151) and 38% (18/48), respectively. Analysis shows: catheter over needle, quick but with a high failure rate; wire-guided, high success rate but high complication rate; cannula, less complications but high failure rate; scalpel, high success rate but longer procedural time. The available data are limited and heterogeneous in terms of reported studies; thus, these results need to be interpreted with caution.The absence of best practice evidence necessitates further studies to provide a clear advice on best practice management for the paediatric emergency surgical airway in the CICO scenario.