Fiberoptic intubation in the emergency department

Edward J. Mlinek, Joseph E. Clinton, David Plummer, Ernest Ruiz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Fiberoptic-aided endotracheal intubation has been shown to be effective in difficult intubation secondary to anatomic abnormalities and traumatic conditions. A retrospective review of emergency airway management in an emergency department during a 30-month period found 35 patients who underwent fiberoptic-aided endotracheal intubation; 31 were treated for medical conditions, and four were trauma patients. Indications in the medical group included failed nasotracheal intubation (ten), anatomic abnormalities (six), and the initial airway maneuver attempted (15). Indications in the trauma group with suspected cervical-spine injury included failed nasotracheal intubation (one) and initial airway maneuver attempted (three). In the medical subgroup, 25 of 31 patients were intubated successfully fiberoptically. All four trauma patients were intubated successfully, and all attempts were done nasally. The limitations of the technique were varied. Twenty of the 25 successful intubations had times recorded for completion (mean time, 1.8 ± 1.4 minutes [SD]). Four of the six failed attempts had recorded times of 7.8 ± 1.4 minutes. The mean time of the four trauma cases was 3 ± 2.2 minutes. The presence of secretions, blood, or vomitus was the cause in five of the six failed intubations. The sixth patient kept swallowing the distal end of the scope. Fiscal restraints may also limit its use. At our institution, the financial commitment has been approximately $17,000 during the past nine years. Repair or replacement of broken equipment appears to be necessary every two or three years. Immediate airway control is often difficult with fiberoptic-aided endotracheal intubation and should be used only in selected patients. This includes patients who are breathing but need intubation and have known anatomic abnormalities or confirmed or suspected cervical-spine injury and after failed nasotracheal intubation. The associated cost of the expensive, fragile equipment may require that specific indications exist for its use in the ED.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-362
Number of pages4
JournalAnnals of Emergency Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1990


  • fiberoptic
  • intubation


Dive into the research topics of 'Fiberoptic intubation in the emergency department'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this