Bronchoscopic intubation is an effective airway strategy in critically ill patients☆,☆☆,★

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American Society of Anesthesiologists guidelines recommend the use of bronchoscopic intubation as a rescue technique in critically ill patients. We sought to assess the safety and efficacy of bronchoscopic intubation as an initial approach in critically ill patients.


We performed a retrospective cohort study of patients who underwent endotracheal intubation in the medical intensive care unit of a tertiary urban referral center over 1 academic year. The primary outcome was first-pass success rate.

Measurements and main results:

We identified 219 patients who underwent either bronchoscopic (n = 52) or laryngoscopic guided (n = 167) intubation as the initial attempt. There was a higher first-pass success rate in the bronchoscopic intubation group than in the laryngoscopic group (96% vs 78%; P = .003). The bronchoscopic intubation group had a higher body mass index (28.4 vs 25.9; P = .027) and higher preintubation fraction of inspired oxygen requirement (0.73 ± 0.27 vs 0.63 ± 0.30; P = .044) than the laryngoscopic group. There were no cases of right mainstem intubation, esophageal intubation, or pneumothorax with bronchoscopic intubation. Rates of postintubation hypotension and hypoxemia were similar in both groups. The association with first-pass success remained with multivariate and propensity matched analysis.


Bronchoscopic intubation as an initial strategy in critically ill patients is associated with a higher first-pass success rate than laryngoscopic intubation, and is not associated with an increase in complications.

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