Analysis of the airway registry from an academic emergency department in South Africa

J C Hart, L N Goldstein


Background. Airway management is an essential skill for doctors working in the emergency department (ED). Safety and efficacy are crucial to its success. Analysis of an airway registry can provide feedback that can be used for quality improvement purposes.

Objectives. To examine the first airway registry from an ED in South Africa (SA), a low- to middle-income country (LMIC), and compare the findings with international data.

Methods. A retrospective analysis of 13 months’ data from the airway registry of an academic ED with an annual census of 60 000 patients. Data analysed included demographics, indications for intubation, intubator training level, type of intubation device, number of attempts, adverse events, pre-oxygenation methods, and drug and intravenous fluid use.

Results. A total of 321 intubations were included. The majority of the patients (71.6%) had non-traumatic indications for intubation. The overall first-pass intubation success (FPS) rate for doctors was 81.8%. Although this rate is lower than the mean rate suggested in an international meta-analysis (84.1%), it is within the 95% confidence interval (80.1 - 87.4%). Overall FPS rates showed no difference between video laryngoscopy (81.7%) compared with direct laryngoscopy (73.3%) (p-value 0.079), although better glottic views were obtained with video laryngoscopy (80.5% were Cormack-Lehane grade 1). Analysis of pre-oxygenation methods found that although sicker patients had received more aggressive pre-oxygenation, e.g. with non-invasive or bag-mask ventilation techniques, they still desaturated more often (35.8% and 62.5%, respectively) than less sick patients who received simple non-rebreather facemask pre-oxygenation (4.5%).

Conclusions. This analysis of the first airway registry from an SA ED highlights that airway management in an LMIC can be performed on par with accepted international standards. It serves as a good baseline for further research into airway management in other LMICs and provides useful feedback for quality improvement purposes.

Authors' affiliations

J C Hart, Division of Emergency Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

L N Goldstein, Division of Emergency Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Airway management; Emergency medicine

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2020;110(6):484-490. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2020.v110i6.14120

Article History

Date submitted: 2020-05-29
Date published: 2020-05-29

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