Background: Direct laryngoscopy (DL) has long been the gold standard for tracheal intubation in emergency and trauma patients. Video laryngoscopy (VL) is increasingly used in many settings and the purpose of this study was to compare its effectiveness to direct laryngoscopy in trauma patients. Our hypothesis was that the success rate of VL would be higher than that of DL. Methods: Data were collected prospectively on all trauma patients, from January 2008 to June 2011, who were intubated emergently in an academic level I trauma center. After intubation, the physician that performed the intubation completed a structured data collection form that included demographics, complications, and the presence of difficult airway predictors. Our primary outcome measure was overall successful tracheal intubation, which was defined as successful intubation with the first device used. Results: During the study period, 709 trauma patients were intubated by either VL or DL. VL was performed in 55 % of cases. The overall success rate of VL was 88 % compared to 83 % with DL (P = 0.05). Cervical (C-Spine) immobilization was predictive of higher initial success with VL (87 %) than with DL (80 %) (P < 0.05). In multivariate regression analysis DL was associated with higher risk of intubation failure compared to VL (OR 1.82, CI: 1.15-2.86). Conclusions: In trauma patients intubated emergently, VL had a significantly higher success rate than DL. These data suggest that, in select circumstances, VL is superior to DL for the intubation of trauma patients with difficult airways.
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