Brief Reports| Volume 41, ISSUE 4, P429-434, October 2011

Difficulties with Gum Elastic Bougie Intubation in an Academic Emergency Department



      The difficulties with gum elastic bougie (GEB) use in the emergency department (ED) have never been studied prospectively.


      To determine the most common difficulties associated with endotracheal intubation using a GEB in the ED.


      We conducted a prospective, observational study of GEB practices in our two affiliated urban EDs with a 3-year residency training program and an annual census of 150,000 patients. Laryngoscopists performing a GEB-assisted intubation completed a structured data form after laryngoscopy, recording patient characteristics, grade of laryngeal view (using the modified Cormack-Lehane classification), reason for GEB use, and problems encountered. Data were analyzed using standard statistical methods and 95% confidence intervals.


      A GEB was used for 88 patients. The overall success rate was 70/88 (79.6%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 71.1–88.0%). The GEB failure rate of the first laryngoscopist was 25/88 (28.4%; 95% CI 21.0–40.3%), with the two most common reasons being: inability to insert the bougie past the hypopharynx in 13 (52%; 95% CI 32.4–71.6%) and inability to pass the endotracheal tube over the bougie in six (24%; 95% CI 7.3–40.7).


      The GEB is a helpful rescue airway device, but emergency care providers should be aware that failure rates are relatively high at a teaching institution.


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