Safety of rapid sequence intubation in an emergency training network

First published: 09 February 2021



Rapid sequence intubation (RSI) is a core critical care skill. Emergency medicine trainees are exposed to relatively low numbers of RSIs. We aimed to improve patient outcomes by implementing an RSI checklist, electronic learning and audit, in line with current best evidence.


Prospective observational study of RSIs performed in the EDs of two Queensland hospitals between January 2014 and December 2016. Data collected included: first‐pass success (FPS), predicted difficulty, indication for intubation, drugs used, positioning, number of attempts, checklist use and complications. Descriptive statistics and multivariable modelling were used to describe differences in FPS, and complications.


Six hundred and fifty‐five patients underwent RSI with FPS of 86.6%. Complications were reported in 15.9%, mainly hypotension (10.9%) and desaturation (4.0%). FPS improved with bougie use (88.9% vs 73.0% without bougie, P < 0.001) and video‐laryngoscopy (88.2% vs 72.9% using standard laryngoscopy, P < 0.001). New desaturation was reduced with apnoeic oxygenation (2.0% vs 22.2%, P < 0.001), bougie use (2.8% vs 8.9%, P < 0.001), checklist use (2.3% vs 22.7%, P < 0.001) and achieving FPS (2.1% vs 16.3%, P < 0.001). Complications were reduced with checklist use (13.3% vs 43.2%, P < 0.001) and apnoeic oxygenation use (3.9% vs 31.1%, P < 0.001). Logistic regression found checklist use was associated with reduced desaturation (OR 0.1, 95% CI 0.04–0.27) and the composite variable of any complication (OR 0.39, 95% CI 0.17–0.89).


Implementation of an evidence‐based care bundle and audit of practice has created a safe environment for trainees to learn the core critical care skill of RSI. In our setting, checklist use was associated with fewer complications.

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