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The impact of respiratory protective equipment on difficult airway management: a randomised, crossover, simulation study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Jan Schumacher, James Arlidge, Declan Dudley, Marcin Sicinski, Imran Ahmad

Original languageEnglish
Article numberANAE15102
Pages (from-to)1301-1306
Number of pages6
Issue number10
Accepted/In press25 Apr 2020
Published1 Oct 2020

King's Authors


The current international COVID-19 health crisis underlines the importance of adequate and suitable personal protective equipment for clinical staff during acute airway management. This study compares the impacts of standard air-purifying respirators and powered air-purifying respirators during simulated difficult airway scenarios. Twenty-five anaesthetists carried out four different standardised difficult intubation drills, either unprotected (control), or wearing a standard or a powered respirator. Treatment times and wearer comfort were determined and compared. In the wearer comfort evaluation form, operators rated mobility, noise, heat, vision and speech intelligibility. All anaesthetists accomplished the treatment objectives of all study arms without adverse events. Total mean (SD) intubation times for the four interventions did not show significant differences between the powered and the standard respirator groups, being 16.4 (8.6) vs. 19.2 (5.2) seconds with the Airtraq™; 11.4 (3.4) vs. 10.0 (2.1) seconds with the videolaryngoscope; 39.2 (4.5) vs. 40.1 (4.8) seconds with the fibreoptic bronchoscope scope; and 15.4 (5.7) vs. 15.1 (5.0) seconds for standard tracheal intubation by direct laryngoscopy, respectively. Videolaryngoscopy allowed the shortest intubation times regardless of the respiratory protective device used. Anaesthetists rated heat and vision significantly higher in the powered respirator group; however, noise levels were perceived to be significantly lower than in the standard respirator group. We conclude that standard and powered respirators do not significantly prolong simulated advanced intubation procedures.

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