We performed a retrospective chart review to evaluate the indications for endotracheal intubation via flexible fiberoptic bronchoscopy in patients who were scheduled for surgery or who were hospitalized in the intensive care unit of our 1,100-bed, tertiary care university hospital. We reviewed 9,201 clinical records of anesthetic procedures during which endotracheal intubation had been performed from January to December 2002. We identified 66 patients who had been intubated with flexible fiberoptic bronchoscopy. On preanesthetic examination, 61 of these patients had been found to be poor candidates for conventional laryngoscopic intubation—51 because of abnormal head and neck anatomy and 10 because of reduced visual access to the airway (Mallampati class IV). The remaining 5 patients were intubated via flexible fiberoptic bronchoscopy after conventional intubation had failed during emergency surgery. Our study emphasizes (1) the importance of the preanesthetic examination of surgical patients, to identify those in whom conventional intubation would likely be problematic, and (2) the need to have fiberoptic bronchoscopes and an anesthesiologist or bronchoscopist skilled in their use available in operating suites and intensive care units.
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