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Critical Care

Open Access

Airway equipment on the intensive care unit for management of the unanticipated difficult intubation

  • J Craig1,
  • R Green1,
  • B Kyle1 and
  • M Jonas2
Critical Care200711(Suppl 2):P212

Published: 22 March 2007


Public HealthIntensive Care UnitEmergency MedicineMinimum LevelStructure Interview


This study was designed to assess the ability of ICUs to deal with the unanticipated difficult intubation. The ICU is a location in which the incidence of difficult intubation has been found to be significantly higher than in theatre (8–22.5% vs 1.5%).


We contacted all adult general ICUs in the South of England and invited the physician responsible for airway management to take part in a structured interview. The interview was designed to follow the Difficult Airway Society (DAS) guidelines. We designed six equipment-related questions that identified a unit as achieving the minimum levels of equipment necessary. These included availability of laryngoscopes, capnography, LMA/ILMA, and rescue techniques.


Forty-five of 51 units responded (88%). Mandatory equipment levels are shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1

Airway equipment available on ICUs. A score of 6/6 is considered the minimum.


Difficult intubation is more likely on the ICU, yet only 20% of units keep sufficient equipment immediately available. The most serious omissions were the 29% of units without a rescue technique immediately available and the one-third of units not routinely employing capnography.

Authors’ Affiliations

Poole General Hospital, Poole, UK
Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, UK


© BioMed Central Ltd. 2007