CPR2As we wait for the new 2015 guidelines for resuscitation later this year, the protocol for a major study which should be completed in time for inclusion in the evidence review for the 2020 guidelines is now available on-line.

‘Project portfolio HTA 12/167/102, Cluster randomised trial of the clinical and cost effectiveness of the i-gel supraglottic airway device versus tracheal intubation in the initial airway management of out of hospital cardiac arrest (Airways-2)’

Just over a year ago I uploaded a blog post entitled, REVIVE airway study – clinical outcomes and future plans. As well as reviewing REVIVE 1, the article discussed the future plans for REVIVE 2, now called AIRWAYS-2. Publication is expected in 2019, which if realised, will allow the study to be considered as part of the 2020 ILCOR Scientific Evidence Evaluation and Review System (SEERS) process.

Why is this trial important? Well, AIRWAYS-2 is an attempt to provide the type of high quality evidence called for back in 2009 by Nolan and Lockey in an editorial entitled, ‘Airway management for OHCA – more data required’. In this editorial, the authors commented that, ‘Virtually all the existing data relating to the use of SADs in cardiac arrest are derived from low-level studies. There is an urgent need for high-quality randomised controlled trials of the use of SADs for CPR.’ However, such studies are not easy to perform in the pre-hospital setting.

The AIRWAYS-2 trial summary confirms that:

 ‘There is real uncertainty amongst paramedics and experts in the field about the best method to ensure a clear airway during the early stages of OHCA. We therefore propose to undertake a large research study to determine whether intubation or the best available SAD (called the i‐gel) gives the best chance of recovery following OHCA.’

Paramedics from the following four English NHS ambulance services will participate:

  • South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWAST)
  • East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust
  • East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust
  • Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust

 As randomisation by patient is impractical in the pre-hospital emergency setting, randomisation will be by paramedic. The trial population will include adults who have suffered an OHCA that is not due to trauma. Patient exclusion criteria includes an estimated weight <50kg and a mouth opening of <2cm.

The trial intervention control group is the current standard care pathway: Tracheal intubation. The Intervention group (i-gel) is referred to as follows:

 ‘Because of its speed and ease of insertion, and the fact that it does not require a cuff to be inflated, the i‐gel has emerged as the preferred SAD for use during OHCA in Europe.’

 The aim and objectives of the study are confirmed as follows:


  • To determine whether the i‐gel, a second‐generation SAD, is superior to tracheal intubation in non-traumatic OHCA in adults, in terms of both clinical and cost effectiveness.


  1. To estimate the difference in the primary outcome of modified Rankin Scale (mRS) at hospital discharge between groups of patients managed by paramedics randomised to use either the i‐gel or intubation as their initial airway management strategy following OHCA.
  2. To estimate differences in secondary outcome measures relating to airway management, hospital stay and recovery at 3 and 6 months (see section 4.6.2) between groups of patients managed by paramedics randomised to use either the i‐gel or intubation.
  3. To estimate the comparative cost effectiveness of the i‐gel and intubation, including estimating major in hospital resources and subsequent costs (length of stay, days of intensive and high dependency care, etc.) in each group.

The secondary outcomes include initial ventilation success, regurgitation/aspiration, the sequence of airway ventilations delivered and return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC). Additional secondary outcomes will be recorded for patients who survive to hospital and to hospital discharge, including for the latter, Modified Rankin scale and quality of life at 3 and 6 months following OHCA.

It is stated that a 2% improvement in the proportion of patients achieving a good clinical outcome would be clinically significant. This study will also include an economic evaluation. It is estmated that 1,300 paramedics will participate and the cost will be over £2 million.

An Airways-2 web-site is now up and running, and includes an overview of the trial, details regarding the study team and an FAQ page.

Four years may seem a long time to wait and there is always the risk that by the time the results are ready to be published, the landscape of airway management during cardiac arrest has changed. However, it would be difficult to factor out such a risk, and AIRWAYS-2 can be seen as a significant attempt to provide the high level data regarding management of the airway during the initial stages of cardiac arrest we all want to see.

Pre-hospital airway management – the debate continues

 In a recent editorial published in Resuscitation, entitled ‘Pre-hospital airway management: The data grows rapidly but controversy remains’, David Lockey and Hans Morten Lossius discuss the results from three studies published in the same issue:

1. An update of out of hospital airway management practices in the United States.

2. Higher insertion success with the i-gel supraglottic airway in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest: A randomised controlled trial.

3. The impact of airway management on quality of cardiopulmonary resuscitation: an observational study in patients during cardiac arrest.

An update of out of hospital airway management practices in the United States

Digges et al utilised the 2012 National Emergency Medical Services Information System (NEMSIS) Public-Release Research Data Set to examine over 19 million EMS activations. This included 74,993 intubations, 21,990 alternate airway patient care events (confirmed as either a Combitube®, Esophageal Obturator, Laryngeal Mask Airway or King LT®) and 1,332 Cricothyroidotomys. BVM ventilation was undertaken on 56,025 occassions and there were 54,241 oropharyngeal airway (OPA) and 404,828 nasopharyngeal airway (NPA) interventions.

Overall intubation success was 85.3%. Alternate airway success rates were 79.6% overall. The most successful of these was was the King LT® (89.7%) and the least successful the Esophageal Obturator (38.0%).

It is interesting to make some comparison of these results to an earlier examination of the same database for EMS activations four years earlier in 2008. The earlier study included fewer states, so any comparison must be undertaken with caution, but the alternate airway devices recorded as having been used were the same in both reports.

This is worth noting, as the alternate airway devices used are quite different from those used in some other markets such as the UK. As reported in a previous blog post, in the Adult ALS chapter of the Resuscitation Council (UK) 2010 Resuscitation Guidelines, it is confirmed that ‘The Combitube® is rarely, if ever, used in the UK and is no longer included in these guidelines’, and in addition that the Laryngeal Tube (LT) ‘is not in common use in the UK’. What about the rest of Europe? In the 2010 European Resuscitation Council (ERC) Guidelines for Resuscitation, it is stated that ‘Use of the Combitube® is waning and in many parts of the world is being replaced by other devices such as the LT’. In the two papers utilising the NEMSIS data discussed in this blog post, there is no mention of the newer 2nd generation SADs such as the i-gel® and LMA Supreme® which are in regular use in many countries.

In an editorial published in 2009 in Resuscitation, the official journal of the European Resuscitation Council, entitled, ‘Airway management for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest – More data required’, Nolan and Lockey concluded that ‘New airway devices appear frequently but, in our opinion, the three currently available disposable SADs that need to be studied for use during CPR are the i-gel®, the LMA Supreme® and the disposable LT’. Only one of these devices, the LT, was used in the Diggs update of out-of-hospital airway management practices in the United States.

This is significant, as the authors of the update of out of hospital airway management practices in the U.S. state that, ‘This study and many others show that there are problems with out-of-hospital ETI. The results of this study show that alternate airways are not the answer’. As Lockey and Lossius comment, the latter point is a ‘strong and controversial statement’. The latter also make a number of additional important points, including confirmation that ‘although supraglottic devices are clearly not all equal, the highest performing devices have similar success to intubation without the high training burden and risks of oesophageal intubation’.

This leads in nicely to the second study discussed in their editorial:

Higher insertion success with the i-gel® supraglottic airway in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest: A randomised controlled trial.

 Lockey and Lossius introduce the study as follows:

‘Confirming the major difference between the performance of different supraglottic devices, and also published in this issue, is a pre-hospital randomised trial of the second generation i-gel™ device vs an LMA™. Significantly different success rates were demonstrated and the second generation device clearly outperformed the LMA™.’ The laryngeal mask compared to i-gel® in this study was the Portex® Soft Seal® device.

A first generation SAD has been described as a ‘simple airway tube’ and a second generation SAD as ‘incorporating specific design features to improve safety by protecting against regurgitation and aspiration’ (White, Cook and Stoddart)

The paper Lockey and Lossius refer to is a single centre, prospective parallel-group ‘open label’ randomised controlled trial (RCT) in which patients in cardiac arrest were allocated to either the Intersurgical i-gel® supraglottic airway or the Portex® Soft Seal® Laryngeal Mask. The primary outcome was successful insertion as determined by the paramedic who inserted the device.

Fifty-one patients were randomised. Three were not in cardiac arrest, so the final analysis reports on data from forty-eight patients. The Intersurgical i-gel® had an insertion success rate of 90% (18/20) compared to 57% (16/28) with the Portex® Soft Seal® (p=0.023). The authors concluded that:

‘The i-gel® supraglottic airway was associated with higher successful insertion rates in subjects with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. The i-gel® supraglottic appears easier for paramedics to use and appears a suitable first line supraglottic airway for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest’.

As confirmed earlier, there was no data for i-gel® or a number of the other newer 2nd generation supraglotic airways in ‘An update of out of hospital airway management practices in the United States’ by Diggs et al. Evidence for one supraglottic airway should not be extrapolated to another device with different design characteristics, so their data is only relevant to those devices included.

The impact of airway management on quality of cardiopulmonary resuscitation: an observational study in patients during cardiac arrest

The third paper discussed by Lockey and Lossius is, ‘ The impact of airway management on quality of cardiopulmonary resuscitation: an observational study in patients during cardiac arrest’. This prospective observational study by Yeung et al enrolled 100 consecutive patients between 2008 and 2011 with the aim of determining the effect of advanced airway use, either an endotracheal tube (ET) or laryngeal mask airway (LMA) on the no flow ratio (NFR) and other measures of CPR quality. The control cohort was patients receiving only bag-mask ventilation. The results showed use of an advanced airway during in-hospital cardiac arrest was associated with improved no flow ratios. The primary reason for the improvement appears to be switching from a compression to ventilation ratio of 30:2 to continuous chest compressions and asynchronous ventilation. Further details can be accessed with the earlier link.

A particularly interesting aspect of this paper is the discussion section, where the uncertainties about the role of advanced airways in cardiac arrest are examined. Firstly there is uncertainty about whether ventilation is required at all in the early stages of cardiac arrest (the Yeung et al paper examined patients in the later stage of out-of-hospital or in-hospital cardiac arrest where some form of ventilation is required). They mention the studies from Arizona prioritising Cardio-Cerebral Resuscitation (CCR) over ventilation in the early stages of cardiac arrest.

The timing of airway intervention and any impact on interruptions in chest compressions are also likely to be important. There is discussion regarding interruptions in CPR and the link to reductions in coronary perfusion pressure and development of ventricular fibrillation (VF). The potential impact of supraglottic airways on carotid blood flow, dislodgement of LMAs and aspiration risk are also discussed. All important subjects.

In their editorial, Lockey and Lossius comment that, ‘This study is one of several that demonstrate potential improvements in quality indicators in resuscitation which may be in conflict with large studies with undifferentiated casemix and resuscitation techniques which generally question the value of advanced life support techniques in cardiac arrest or trauma patients.’


So where does all this new data leave us? Lockey and Lossius conclude that ‘Our interpretation of the currently available data on pre-hospital advanced airway management is that the risks and benefits need to be considered for every patient on scene with airway compromise. The management that results from this analysis will depend on the indications and condition of the patient as well as the skills and available interventions on scene.’ This is not entirely dissimilar to the statement in the European Resuscitation Council (ERC) guidelines for resuscitation 2010 in relation to airway management during cardiac arrest, which state 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 SADs, Lockey and Lossius conclude:

‘The constant evolution of existing supraglottic airways and the introduction of new devices makes generalisation and performance assessment of these devices difficult, but the expanding dataset will hopefully ensure that only the highly performing devices will be used in future studies, thus making interpretation more straightforward’.

No doubt REVIVE#2 will provide some useful additional data in this regard and it is to be hoped that additional randomised controlled trials, similar to the study published by Middleton et al discussed here, will be conducted so the dataset continues to expand.

REVIVE airway study – clinical outcomes and future plans

Since plans were first announced to conduct a randomised comparison of two second generation SADs to current practice in the initial airway management of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) in a UK ambulance service, the results have been eagerly anticipated. This can be no surprise given the paucity of high level evidence to confirm the best technique for maintaining an airway and providing ventilation in adults with cardiopulmonary arrest.

However, the primary objective of REVIVE was not to provide a definitive answer to the above question, but to assess the feasibility of the study design. If REVIVE proved the design was feasible, capable of establishing whether ventilation success can be achieved, and of measuring other key outcomes such as return of spontaneous ventilation and survival to hospital, then it would lay the foundation for a future full-scale study which might just provide us with the answer to the above question.

The REVIVE airway working group presented a poster at the International Conference on Emergency Medicine (ICEM) in Dublin in June last year entitled, ‘Early report of paramedic recruitment in the REVIVE-Airways study’. This confirmed the target of recruiting 150 randomised paramedics and stratification by experience and base station location had been successfully achieved.

Last month, in an abstract presented at the American Heart Association Resuscitation Science Symposium in Dallas, we had our first glimpse of the data related to the clinical outcomes. As this was a feasibility trial and not designed or powered to show clinically significant differences between each device or study arm, there was some discussion as to whether the clinical data should be released. However, the protocol published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), suggests the original intention had always been to disseminate the clincial data to participants in the study and to the wider public via an open access web-site, appropriate conferences and medical journals.

A more comprehensive overview of the study results was presented at the UWE Conference & Exhibition Centre in Bristol on the 29th November. Speakers included Dr Jerry Nolan, Dr Jas Soar, Prof Jonathan Benger, Dr Matt Thomas, Dr Janet Brandling, Dr Sarah Voss and Mr Dave Coates.

The results showed no significant differences in important clinical outcomes between the use of a supraglottic airway (SAD) and usual practice (principally tracheal intubation) during OHCA. However, the trial was insufficiently powered to detect small differences in mortality. The i-gel® was superior to the LMA Supreme® on several measures, including compliance, adverse events and staff feedback. The investigators are proceeding to a large-scale trial of i-gel® versus tracheal intubation in OHCA.

For the record, the survival to hospital discharge was as follows:

     • i-gel® 10.3%
     • LMA Supreme® 8.0%
     • Usual practice 9.1%


Survival to 90 days is shown below:

     • i-gel® 9.5%
     • LMA Supreme® 6.9%
     • Usual practice 8.6%


Data was also presented on neurocognitive and quality of life outcomes, as well as successful device placement. There was also interesting data regarding the number of arrests attended by each paramedic (March 2012 to February 2013), which ranged from 0-11, with a mean of 3.6 arrests per paramedic. 15 paramedics did not attend any arrest during the study period. There were presentations confirming how the airway was actually managed in practice and feedback from the paramedics that participated in the study.

Successful aspects of REVIVE included proof of the feasibility of a cluster randomised trial of airway intervention in OHCA and the collection of valuable data to inform a full trial. It also demonstrated the strong support of paramedics and informed statistical calculations for a larger study. So, what next?


Professor Jonathan Benger, in a presentation entitled, ‘Further research: REVIVE 2’, confirmed the aims of REVIVE 2 as identifying differences in the primary outcome of modified Rankin Scale (mRS) at hospital discharge: good recovery (0-3) versus poor recovery/death (4-6) and differences in:

• mRS at 3 and 6 months following OHCA
• Quality of life at discharge, 3 months and 6 months
• Cognitive function at 3 and 6 months
• Length of stay
• Ventilation success, regurgitation and aspiration
• Loss of a previously established airway

Comparative cost effectiveness of the i-gel® and intubation, as well as the views and preferences of paramedics is also to be assessed.

It is intended the design will be a cluster randomised trial (by paramedic), with an airway algorithm for each arm. Clinical need will always take precedence and there will be an economic analysis, as well as patient and public involvement. An outline bid has been successful, and a full proposal is to follow (5th February 2014). It is intended for the trial to run for 45 months, from October 2014 to June 2018.

REVIVE 2 will need approximately 1,300 paramedics. This will probably require the inclusion of three or four large UK ambulance trusts. It is estimated the cost for REVIVE 2 will be £2 million. The investigators are ready to begin.

Four and a half years (probably 5 years before the results are reported) may seem a long time to wait for the conclusion of REVIVE 2, but given the lack of high level data currently available regarding the best airway device to use during the initial phase of OHCA, it will be worth the wait.

Supraglottic airways versus tracheal intubation for OHCA

Whilst the 2010 European Resusciation Council (ERC) guidelines confirm ‘There is insufficient evidence to support or refute the use of any specific technique to maintain an airway and provide ventilation in adults with cardiopulmonary arrest.’ They go on to confirm that despite this ‘tracheal intubation is perceived as the optimal method of providing and maintaining a clear and secure airway.’ However, they also point out that without adequate training and experience, the incidence of complications with tracheal intubation can be unacceptably high.

As a result, in some countries, such as the UK, there has been a general move towards the use of supraglottic airway devices in the pre-hospital setting. This has been supported by the Joint Royal Colleges Ambulance Liaison Committee (JRCALC) Airway Working Group, who in 2008 published ‘A Critical Reassessment of Ambulance Service Airway Management in Pre-Hospital Care’, which recommended that ‘The majority of those managing patients’ airways in the pre-hospital setting should be trained to insert a supraglottic airway device instead of a tracheal tube’. The College of Paramedics outlined a number of concerns and reservations with this approach, but despite this, the use of supraglottic airways for OHCA has increased in the UK.

It was therefore interesting to read the recent clinical study published in Resuscitation, entitled ‘Endotracheal intubation versus supraglottic airway insertion in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest’, by Wang et al. The study is a secondary analysis of data from the multi-centre ‘Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium (ROC) PRIMED trial, looking at adult non-traumatic out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) receiving successful supraglottic airway (SGA) insertion of the King Laryngeal TubeTM, Combitube®, and Laryngeal Mask Airway, or successful intubation with an endotracheal tube (ETI). It included 10,455 adult OHCA. 8,487 of these received ETI and 1,968 an SGA. The survival to hospital discharge was 4.7% for ETI and 3.9% for SGA.

The results are interesting, but as the authors themselves acknowledge, there are limitations and confounders, including the order of airway device insertion, and the number and duration of insertion attempts. The data was not intended for primary evaluation of airway management techniques, and information regarding interruptions to compressions during insertion of the airway device, ventilation rates or tidal volumes could not be accounted for or was not regarded as reliable. Despite this, the results from this paper are certainly worth further consideration and it is likely will be the subject of significant discussion amongst the Emergency Medicine fraternity and beyond.

Of course, the absolute difference in survival rates in this study was small, and whilst confirming that observational data are clearly of value, an editorial published in the same issue of Resuscitation as this study, ‘ROC, paper, scissors: Tracheal intubation or supraglottic airway for OHCA?’ pointed out that ‘randomised trials are still widely considered to be the gold standard for addressing focused clinical questions’. Indeed, Wang et al themselves confirmed that ‘prospective randomised assignment may represent an optimal strategy for comparing OHCA outcomes between ETI and SGA’.

As reported in an earlier blog post, a randomised trial comparing two SGAs (LMA Supreme® and i-gel®) to ‘current practice’ which it is believed will usually be ETI, is underway in the UK, called the ‘Airway Management Feasibility Study (REVIVE – Airways)’. It is also interesting to note that neither of the two SGAs in the REVIVE study were included in the US study being discussed here. Clearly, results for one SGA cannot be extrapolated to another, so these results are only relevant for the devices studied. Given the considerable differences in design and performance characteristics between the CombiTube®, King Laryngeal TubeTM, standard Laryngeal Mask Airway and the LMA Supreme® and i-gel®, it is possible, perhaps likely, results for the latter two devices would have been quite different.

Whilst we await the results of high quality randomised controlled trials of the use of SGAs for CPR, the conclusion given in the study by Wang et al seems entirely reasonable ‘EMS medical directors must consider patient characteristics, device efficacy and practitioner skill and training when selecting OHCA airway management strategies.’ This approach is echoed by the ERC in their 2010 guidelines ‘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’. Now you can’t really argue with that.

REVIVE airway study

The European Resuscitation Council (ERC) guidelines state 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.’

In an editorial published in Resuscitation in 2009, entitled, ‘Airway Management for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest – more data required’, Nolan and Lockey confirmed that whilst tracheal intubation has been considered the gold standard for airway management during cardiac arrest, there is no high level evidence proving that tracheal intubation improves outcome. They also highlighted that virtually all data relating to the use of supraglottic airway devices (SADs) in cardiac arrest derive from low level studies, and concluded there is an urgent need for high-quality randomised controlled trials of the use of SADs for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

The Airway Management Feasibility Study (REVIVE – Airways) is an attempt to start the process of providing 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 out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) compared to current practice, which is expected to be tracheal intubation. Clinical research in OHCA can be particularly difficult and is often an ethical challenge. Randomisation is not straightforward, so this study is of a cluster randomised design, whereby the randomisation is of the paramedic (as opposed to the patient) to one of the SADs or to ‘current practice’. This is a feasibility study, so the focus is on assessing how easy it is to recruit paramedics, and whether the study design will allow effective comparison of each of the three study arms. Secondary objectives include survival to hospital discharge. If the study does produce useful data, it is hoped this will lead to a national trial.

At the recent International Conference on Emergency Medicine (ICEM) in Dublin, the REVIVE Airway Working Group presented a poster confirming successful recruitment of 184 paramedics employed by Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) to the study. This exceeded their target of 150 – a recruitment of 35% of those eligible. The study is expected to end in February 2013. If the methodology proves successful, perhaps there is a chance we might see published data from a national study by 2016. That may seem a long time away, but it should be worth the wait.