The success of battlefield surgical airway insertion in severely injured military patients: a UK perspective.
The insertion of a surgical airway in the presence of severe airway compromise is an uncommon occurrence in everyday civilian practice. In conflict, the requirement for insertion of a surgical airway is more common. Recent military operations in Afghanistan resulted in large numbers of severely injured patients, and a significant proportion required definitive airway management through the insertion of a surgical airway.
To examine the procedural success and survival rate to discharge from a military hospital over an 8-year period.
A retrospective database and chart review was conducted, using the UK Joint Theatre Trauma Registry and the Central Health Records Library. Patients who underwent surgical airway insertion by UK medical personnel from 2006 to 2014 were included. Procedural success, demographics, Injury Severity Score, practitioner experience and patient survival data were collected. Descriptive statistics were used for data comparison, and statistical significance was defined as p<0.05.
86 patients met the inclusion criterion and were included in the final analysis. The mean patient age was 25 years, (SD 5), with a median ISS of 62.5 (IQR 42). 79 (92%) of all surgical airways were successfully inserted. 7 (8%) were either inserted incorrectly or failed to perform adequately. 80 (93%) of these procedures were performed either by combat medical technicians or General Duties Medical Officers (GDMOs) at the point of wounding or Role 1. 6 (7%) were performed by the Medical Emergency Response Team. 21 (24%) patients survived to hospital discharge.
Surgical airways can be successfully performed in the most hostile of environments with high success rates by combat medical technicians and GDMOs. These results compare favourably with US military data published from the same conflict.
A national survey of practical airway training in UK anaesthetic departments. Time for a national policy?
National Audit Project (NAP4) recommended airway training for trainee and trained anaesthetists. As the skills required for management of airway emergencies differ from routine skills and these events are rare, practical training is likely to require training workshops. In 2013, we surveyed all UK National Health Service hospitals to examine the current practices regarding airway training workshops. We received responses from 206 hospitals (62%) covering all regions. Regarding airway workshops, 16% provide none and 51% only for trainees. Of those providing workshops, more than half are run less than annually. Workshop content varies widely, with several Difficult Airway Society (DAS) guideline techniques not taught or only infrequently. Reported barriers to training include lack of time and departmental or individual interest. Workshop-based airway training is variable in provision, frequency and content, and is often not prioritised by departments or individual trainers.
It could be useful if guidance on workshop organisation, frequency and content was considered nationally.
A modern combat trauma
The world remains plagued by wars and terrorist attacks, and improvised explosive devices (IED) are the main weapons of our current enemies, causing almost two-thirds of all combat injuries. We wished to analyse the pattern of blast trauma on the modern battlefield and to compare it with combat gunshot injuries.
MATERIALS AND METHODS:
Analysis of a consecutive series of combat trauma patients presenting to two Bulgarian combat surgical teams in Afghanistan over 11 months. Demographics, injury patterns and Injury Severity Scores (ISS) were compared between blast and gunshot-injured casualties using Fisher's Exact Test.
The blast victims had significantly higher median ISS (20.54 vs 9.23) and higher proportion of ISS>16 (60% vs 33.92%, p=0.008) than gunshot cases. They also had more frequent involvement of three or more body regions (47.22% vs 3.58%, p<0.0001). A significantly higher frequency of head (27.27% vs 3.57%), facial (20% vs 0%) and extremities injuries (85.45% vs 42.86%) and burns (12.72% vs 0%) was noted among the victims of explosion (p<0.0001). Based on clinical examination and diagnostic imaging, primary blast injury was identified in 24/55 (43.6%), secondary blast injury in 37 blast cases (67.3%), tertiary in 15 (27.3%) and quaternary blast injury (all burns) in seven (12.72%).
Our results corroborate the 'multidimensional' injury pattern of blast trauma. The complexity of the blast trauma demands a good knowledge and a special training of the military surgeons and hospital personnel before deployment.
Role of upper airway ultrasound in airway management.
Upper airway ultrasound is a valuable, non-invasive, simple, and portable point of care ultrasound (POCUS) for evaluation of airway management even in anatomy distorted by pathology or trauma. Ultrasound enables us to identify important sonoanatomy of the upper airway such as thyroid cartilage, epiglottis, cricoid cartilage, cricothyroid membrane, tracheal cartilages, and esophagus. Understanding this applied sonoanatomy facilitates clinician to use ultrasound in assessment of airway anatomy for difficult intubation, ETT and LMA placement and depth, assessment of airway size, ultrasound-guided invasive procedures such as percutaneous needle cricothyroidotomy and tracheostomy, prediction of postextubation stridor and left double-lumen bronchial tube size, and detecting upper airway pathologies. Widespread POCUS awareness, better technological advancements, portability, and availability of ultrasound in most critical areas facilitate upper airway ultrasound to become the potential first-line non-invasive airway assessment tool in the future.
Self-directed simulation-based training of emergency cricothyroidotomy: a route to lifesaving skills.
Surgicric 2: A comparative bench study with two established emergency cricothyroidotomy techniques in a porcine model.
'Can't Intubate, Can't Oxygenate' is a rare but life threatening event. Anaesthetists must be trained and have appropriate equipment available for this. The ideal equipment is a topic of ongoing debate. To date cricothyroidotomy training for anaesthetists has concentrated on cannula techniques. However cases reported to the NAP4 audit illustrated that they were associated with a high failure rate. A recent editorial by Kristensen and colleagues suggested all anaesthetists must master a surgical technique. The surgical technique for cricothyroidotomy has been endorsed as the primary technique by the recent Difficult Airway Society 2015 guidelines.
We conducted a bench study comparing the updated Surgicric 2 device with a scalpel-bougie-tube surgical technique, and the Melker seldinger technique, using a porcine model. Twenty six senior anaesthetists (ST5+) participated. The primary outcome was insertion time. Secondary outcomes included success rate, ease of use, device preference and tracheal trauma.
There was a significant difference (P<0.001) in the overall comparisons of the insertion times. The surgical technique had the fastest median time of 62 s. The surgical and Surgicric techniques were significantly faster to perform than the Melker (both P<0.001). The surgical technique had a success rate of 85% at first attempt, and 100% within two attempts, whereas the others had failed attempts. The surgical technique was ranked first by 50% participants and had the lowest grade of posterior tracheal wall trauma, significantly less than the Surgicric 2 (P=0.002).
This study supports training in and the use of surgical cricothyroidotomy by anaesthetists.