Preshospital cricothyrotomy: An investigation of indications, technique, complications, and patient outcome

Daniel W. Spait, Maralee Joseph

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Scopus citations


The records of all patients who presented to a Level 1 trauma center during a two-year period for whom a prehospital cricothyrotomy was attempted or ordered were reviewed. Twenty patients met the study critieria. The average age was 37 years (range, 11 to 65 years). Indications for prehospital cricothyrotomy were massive facial trauma (eight), failed oral intubation (seven), and suspected cervical spine injury (one). Cricothyrotomy was attempted in 16 patients (80%), with the remaining four having the procedure ordered but not attempted. A successful airway was achieved in 14 patients (88%). Horizontal incisions were used in all cases and were anatomically correct in 15 of 16 attempts (94%). The overall immediate complication rate was 31%. Two patients (12%) sustained major complications (failure to obtain an airway). No hemorrhagic complications occurred, but 16 of the 20 were in cardiac arrest in the field. Long-term complications were not evaluated. All patients sustained major injuries (mean Injury Severity Score, 53.7), except one patient who suffered airway obstruction from food. Three patients (15%) survived; two of the three suffered permanent, severe brain dysfunction. These preliminary findings demonstrate that prehospital cricothyrotomy is being used chiefly in massively injured patients who are already beyond recovery. It is thus difficult to assess whether the procedure is either safe or effective. There is a need for further investigation to determine whether prehospital cricothyrotomy has any beneficial effect on outcome and, if so, in what setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-285
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of emergency medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1990


  • cricothyrotomy
  • prehospital

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Preshospital cricothyrotomy: An investigation of indications, technique, complications, and patient outcome'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this