VL :another tool or a new paradigm in airway management?
BACKGROUND: An adequate airway management plan is essential for patient safety. Recently, new tools have been developed as alternatives to direct laryngoscopy and intubation. Among these, video-laryngoscopy has enjoyed a rapid increase in popularity and is now considered by many as the first-line technique in airway management. This paradigm shift may have an impact on patient safety.
PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Studies show that video-laryngoscopes are associated with better glottic visualization, a higher success rate for difficult airways, and a faster learning curve, resulting in a higher success rate for intubations by novice physicians. Thus, unanticipated difficult intubations may be less frequent if video-laryngoscopy is used as the first-line approach. In addition, on-screen viewing by the operator creates a new dynamic interaction during airway management. The entire operating room team can assess progress in real time, which enhances communication and improves teaching. However, if video-laryngoscopes become standard tools for tracheal intubation, these more costly devices will need to be widely available in all locations where airway management is conducted. Furthermore, algorithms for difficult intubation will require modification, and the question of selecting alternate devices will arise. If the incidence of difficult intubation decreases, the lack of motivation to teach and learn the use of alternative devices might adversely impact patient safety.
CONCLUSION: The greater effectiveness of video-laryngoscopes associated with multi-person visualization could enhance overall patient safety during airway management. However, the routine use of video-laryngoscopy also introduces some issues that need to be addressed to avoid potentially dangerous pitfalls.
Address: Département d’anesthésiologie, Université de Montréal, Montréal, QC, Canada, firstname.lastname@example.org.