The i-gel SGA for prehospital airway management in a UK ambulance service

As previously reported on this blog page, the optimum method for management of the airway during cardiac arrest (CA) continues to be the subject of lively debate. The European Resuscitation Council (ERC) guidelines confirm that ‘There are no data supporting the routine use of any specific approach to airway management during cardiac arrest. The best technique is dependent on the precise circumstances of the cardiac arrest and the competence of the rescuer.’

With regard to the use of supraglottic airways (SADs) for CA, the call went out in an editorial entitled ‘Airway Management for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest – more data required’, published in 2009 in Resuscitation by Nolan and Lockey for high quality randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of the use of SADs for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The REVIVE airways study process is an attempt to provide just such evidence by conducting a randomised comparison of the ventilation success of two 2nd generation supraglottic airways, i-gel® and the LMA Supreme®, in the initial airway management of OHCA compared to current practice, which is expected to be tracheal intubation. The REVIVE team published an initial report in the BMJ on the feasibility of such a study protocol earlier this year. A full trial is expected to follow.

In the meantime, healthcare professionals are still faced with the dilemma of which airway device to use for CPR, so any new data or evidence in this area, even if it is not high level, is likely to be of interest.

Duckett et al have just published the results of two retrospective clinical audits in the Emergency Medicine Journal, reviewing the use of basic and advanced airway management techniques within the UK North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (NEAS) for cardiac arrests, entitled, ‘Introduction of the i-gel supraglottic airway device for prehospital airway management in a UK ambulance service.’

The audit confirmed that a range of basic and advanced airway management techniques are being successfully used to manage the airways of CA patients in NEAS and that i-gel is emerging as a popular choice for maintaining and securing the airway during pre-hospital CPR.

The success rates for i-gel insertion at 94% and 92% were higher than for the endotracheal tube (ETT) at 90% and 86%. In determining these results, the Quality Improvement Officer audited whether the technique used had been documented by the crew as ‘successful’ or ‘unsuccessful’, but no further details are provided in this report as to how success or failure was determined. Any additional relevant documentation which may indicate problems such as regurgitation, aspiration or trauma provided by the paramedic and/or the receiving A&E department were also considered. The abstract reports that ‘The re-audit indicated an upward trend in the popularity of i-gel; insertion is faster with a higher success rate, which allows the crew to progress with the other resuscitation measures more promptly.’

In light of this new data, it is interesting to note that an addition to the i-gel product range, specially designed for use during resuscitation, is also now available. The i-gel O2 Resus Pack (figure 1) contains a modified i-gel with a supplementary oxygen port.

figure 1

figure 1

It also includes a sachet of lubricant for quick and easy lubrication of the i-gel O2 prior to insertion, an airway support strap to secure the i-gel O2 in position and a suction tube for insertion through the gastric channel to empty the stomach contents (figure 2)

figure 2

figure 2

The i-gel O2 has been designed to facilitate ventilation as part of standard resuscitation protocols such as those designated by the ERC.

However, the i-gel O2 incorporates a supplementary oxygen port, permitting use for the delivery of passive oxygenation or Passive Airway Management (PAM), as part of an appropriate CardioCerebral Resuscitation (CCR) protocol. The use of passive oxygenation is discussed in an earlier blog post, Should we be passive about oxygenation?

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NAP4 – two years on

NAP4, the 4th National Audit Project of the Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA) and the Difficult Airway Society (DAS) on ‘Major Complications of Airway Management in the United Kingdom’, was published in March 2011.

Two years on, the key findings of the report continue to resonate. These include:

  • A high failure rate of emergency cannula cricothyroidotomy
  • Failure to correctly interpret a capnograph trace leading to several oesophageal intubations going unrecognised in anaesthesia.
  • Numerous cases where awake fibreoptic intubation (AFOI) was indicated but was not used.
  • Problems arising when difficult intubation was managed by multiple repeat attempts at intubation.

Poor airway assessment, a failure to plan for failure and poor judgement were also identified as key clinical themes in a number of the cases reported. Such is the breadth of NAP4, that the above represent little more than a highly selective short-list.

Interestingly, when the report was launched, one of the authors highlighted in a presentation on ‘Aspiration of gastric contents and of blood‘, which can be seen as a podcast on the RCoA web-site, that ‘there’s nothing new in NAP4’, referring to the fact that one of the major findings of the report (perhaps the major finding?), that aspiration of gastric contents was the single commonest cause of death in anaesthesia events, was also the finding of a report published in Anaesthesia way back in 1956 entitled, ‘Deaths associated with anaesthesia: A report on 1,000 cases‘. So, despite all the advances in airway management and anaesthesia over the last 50 years, aspiration remains a major concern.

For many, I am sure NAP4 did highlight a lot that was new, or at the very least, NAP4 probably provided evidence to support what logic and personal experience had suggested might be true. The ultimate judgement on the success of the report may only become evident in the years ahead, when it can be assessed what practical changes have been made in light of the many recommendations of the report.

A number of posters and abstracts at national and international conferences have already assessed or reported on changes implemented in their departments in the light of NAP4. At the annual DAS meeting in 2011, these included the following:

Audit comparing supraglottic airway (SAD) device use at a DGH to NAP4 guidelines. Thomas S – This poster reported on SAD use in obese patients, use in procedures with risk of reflux or previous difficult intubation and supraglottic training and awareness of NAP4.

Post NAP4 – Implications for intensive care nursing. Lamb RG et al – A report on a project looking at basic awareness of ICU nursing staff regarding Rapid Sequence Induction (RSI) and their familiarity with difficult airway equipment. The results were used to assess the need for further education of nursing staff who may be expected to assist with RSI.

Capnography use in ICU. Measuring up to NAP4. Cole S et al – A poster reporting on the results of a survey to measure capnography use in ICUs across Scotland and to describe factors influencing use.

Capnography use outside of theatres in the Northern Deanery before and after publication of NAP4. Metcalfe SE et al – An audit on use of capnography in the UK for patients undergoing anaesthesia and being intubated irrespective of location.

Some of the recommendations of NAP4, such as each department of anaesthesia having a ‘Departmental Airway Lead’, have long been advocated by the UK Difficult Airway Society. Many hospitals already have an airway lead, but following discussions between DAS and the RCoA, the college council has endorsed a strong recommendation that all anaesthesia departments should conform with this NAP4 recommendation. The responsibilities of the position should include, the overseeing of local airway training, ensuring local policies exist and are disseminated for predictable airway emergencies, liasing specifically with ICU and emergency departments to ensure consistency, and ensuring that difficult airway equipment is appropriate to the local guidelines and standardised within the organisation.

Further potential responsibilities have also been outlined. The RCoA intends to maintain a database of departmental airway leads. DAS also plans two follow-up surveys to study the impact of NAP4. A National survey of institutional responses to NAP4 and a national ‘sprint audit’ to collect national data on practice and activity over a short period. We await the results with interest. See the DAS Newsletter – Projects Edition December 2012 pp6-7 for further details

NAP5 – Accidental Awareness during General Anaesthesia in the United Kingdom, has just been published, but two years on from publication, its predecessor remains essential reading.