Without evidence of benefit, an intervention should not be presumed to be beneficial or safe.

- Rogue Medic

If We Are Not Competent With Direct Laryngoscopy, We Should Just Say So – Part I

ResearchBlogging.org
 

This study starts out looking good, but there is a huge problem with the design.

If the person intubating felt that he needed to use the video laryngoscope to get the tube, then the patient was not randomize into the study.

How was this paper accepted for publication with such an obviously violation of research methodology?

Did the authors at least track the violations of ethics, so that some analysis of all patients could be attempted?

Maybe this is not really GVL (GlideScope Video Laryngoscope) vs. DL (Direct Laryngoscopy), but a comparison of intubation of the not-so-difficult airway with GVL vs. DL.

What is not-so-difficult? Whatever did not get the doctor to cry, I could not possibly manage that airway safely with a regular laryngoscope!

833 patients would have been randomized, but the person in charge of the airway cried uncle in 210 (just over 25%) of these cases.
 


Image credit.[1]
 

Has airway management really deteriorated to the point where doctors do not feel competent managing 25% of airways without an electronic toy because they are superstitious and believe the toy has magical powers?
 


 

Maybe.

A study could be set up with some sort of objective criteria for excluding the most difficult airways and still be valid, but how do we objectively assess the need for an electric rabbit’s foot?

Did the doctors read their horoscopes and determine that it was a bad day and they needed to use all of their voodoo powers that day?

Did the doctors consult with psychics?

We do not know, because the criteria for superstition are not explained.

This is just a reminder that medicine, and perhaps especially trauma medicine, is still a very superstitious field. It wasn’t that long ago that these patients would have been treated with blood-letting to get rid of the bad humors that prevent healing. Humorous medicine.

Dr. David Newman and Dr. Ashley Shreves describe this in a SMART EM podcast.[2] Dr. Newman corresponded with one of the authors and states that some of the anesthesiologists at Shock Trauma are biased in favor of the video laryngoscope and refuse to use anything else. Were the 210 patients excluded just because some attending anesthesiologists are too biased to learn what works and those anesthesiologists were just throwing a tantrum for all of their patients?

The mythology of I know it works because I’ve seen it work.[3]

Are 25% of the attending anesthesiologists at Shock Trauma too biased to learn?[4]

Or have we improved to the point where only 25% of attending physicians in a specialty are to biased to learn?

To be continued in Part II.

Footnotes:

Image credit for witch’s hat.

[1] Effect of video laryngoscopy on trauma patient survival: a randomized controlled trial.
Yeatts DJ, Dutton RP, Hu PF, Chang YW, Brown CH, Chen H, Grissom TE, Kufera JA, Scalea TM.
J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2013 Aug;75(2):212-9. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e318293103d.
PMID: 23823612 [PubMed – in process]

[2] SMART Literature Update
SMART EM podcast
Friday, October 11, 2013
Dr. David Newman and Dr. Ashley Shreves
From about 45:45 to 1:11:00 in the podcast is on this paper.
Podcast page.

[3] I’ve Seen It Work and Other Lies
Tue, 21 Jun 2011
Rogue Medic
Article

[4] It would be the anesthesiologists managing just over 25% of the intubations, rather than 25% of the anesthesiologists, but no information is provided to clarify how many anesthesiologists that would be.

The result of the bias affects just over 25% of patients.

Yeatts DJ, Dutton RP, Hu PF, Chang YW, Brown CH, Chen H, Grissom TE, Kufera JA, & Scalea TM (2013). Effect of video laryngoscopy on trauma patient survival: a randomized controlled trial. The journal of trauma and acute care surgery, 75 (2), 212-9 PMID: 23823612

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Comments

  1. I look at the approach of what works for the person performing the intubation is best. The goal isn’t to satisfy keeping a low-tech approach, the goal is to maximize patient care. If a difficult airway is encountered and the decision to use a Bougie (flex-tube introducer) is made does this qualify as witchcraft? If an anesthesiologist opts to use a Mac 0 on a pediatric pt rather than a text-book suggested Miller 0 is this witchcraft? If the doctor opts to use VGL because the pt is perceived difficult due to morbid obesity, known CA tumor, etc. why is this witchcraft?
    I call it prudent judgement.

    From the article at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22042705: Compared to direct laryngoscopy, Glidescope(®) video-laryngoscopy is associated with improved glottic visualization, particularly in patients with potential or simulated difficult airway.

    From http://ccforum.com/content/17/5/R237: In the medical ICU, video laryngoscopy resulted in higher first attempt and ultimate intubation success rates and improved grade of laryngoscopic view while reducing the esophageal intubation rate compared to direct laryngoscopy.

    As you point out, the article you linked just leaves the sub-group in question at “discretion, unspecified”. Is the discretion the witchcraft and psychics? Maybe. Is it likely these pt’s were indeed difficult airways the physician felt more comfortable using VGL?

    Is the physician truly practicing witchcraft because he chose to perform a procedure known to lower time to intubation, improve first-pass success, etc? Would it have been better if he’d have ignored the VGL device and made several attempts at DL to pass the ETT?

    The usage of VGL doesn’t appear to be a tool of witchcraft. This is evolution of medicine.

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