Patient safety in pre-hospital emergency tracheal intubation: a comprehensive meta-analysis of the intubation success rates of EMS providers
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Introduction: Pre-hospital airway management is a controversial subject, but there is general agreement that a small number of seriously ill or injured patients require urgent emergency tracheal intubation (ETI) and ventilation. Many European emergency medical services (EMS) systems provide physicians to care for these patients while other systems rely on paramedics (or, rarely, nurses). The ETI success rate is an important measure of provider and EMS system success and a marker of patient safety.
Methods: We conducted a systematic search of Medline and EMBASE to identify all of the published original English-language articles reporting pre-hospital ETI in adult patients. We selected all of the studies that reported ETI success rates and extracted information on the number of attempted and successful ETIs, type of provider, level of ETI training and the availability of drugs on scene. We calculated the overall success rate using meta-analysis and assessed the relationships between the ETI success rate and type of provider and between the ETI success rate and the types of drugs available on the scene.
Results: From 1,070 studies initially retrieved, we identified 58 original studies meeting the selection criteria. Sixtyfour per cent of the non-physician-manned services and 54% of the physician-manned services reported ETI success rates but the success rate reporting was incomplete in three studies from non-physician-manned services. Median success rate was 0.905 (0.491, 1.000). In a weighted linear regression analysis, physicians as providers were significantly associated with increased success rates, 0.092 (P = 0.0345). In the non-physician group, the use of drug-assisted intubation significantly increased the success rates. All physicians had access to traditional rapid sequence induction (RSI) and, comparing these to non-physicians using muscle paralytics or a traditional RSI, there still was a significant difference in success rate in favour of physicians, 0.991 and 0.955, respectively (P = 0.047).
Conclusions: This comprehensive meta-analysis suggests that physicians have significantly fewer pre-hospital ETI failures overall than non-physicians. This finding, which remains true when the non-physicians administer muscle paralytics or RSI, raises significant patient safety issues. In the absence of pre-hospital physicians, conducting basic or advanced airway techniques other than ETI should be strongly considered.
Hans Lossius et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.