An Analysis of Airway Interventions in the Setting of Smoke Inhalation Injury on the Battlefield

Steven G. Schauer, Jason F. Naylor, Gregory Dion, Michael D. April, Kevin K. Chung, Victor A. Convertino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Introduction: The Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care and Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate cite airway burn injuries as an indication for prehospital cricothyrotomy. We sought to build on previously published data by describing for the first time the incidence of prehospital airway interventions in combat casualties who received airway management in the setting of inhalational injuries.15,26 We hypothesized that (1) airway interventions in combat casualties who suffered inhalational injury would have a higher mortality rate than those without airway intervention and (2) prehospital cricothyrotomy was used with greater incidence than endotracheal intubation. Materials and Methods: Using a previously described Department of Defense Trauma Registry dataset from January 2007 to August 2016, unique casualties with documented inhalational injury were identified. Results: Our predefined search codes captured 28,222 (72.8% of all encounters in the registry) of those subjects. A total of 347 (1.2%) casualties had a documented inhalational injury, 27 (7.8%) of those with at least 1 prehospital airway intervention inhalational injuries (0.09% of our dataset [n = 28,222]). Within the subset of patients with an inhalation injury, 23 underwent intubation, 2 underwent cricothyrotomy, 3 had placement of an airway adjunct not otherwise specifically listed, and 1 casualty had both a cricothyrotomy and intubation documented. No casualties had a supraglottic, nasopharyngeal, or oropharyngeal airway listed. Contrary to our hypotheses, of those with an airway intervention, 74.0% survived to hospital discharge. In multivariable regression models, when adjusting for confounders, there was no difference in survival to discharge in those with an airway intervention compared to those without. Conclusions: Casualties undergoing airway intervention for inhalation injuries had similar survival adjusting for injury severity, supporting its role when indicated. Without case-specific data on airway status and interventions, it is challenging to determine if the low rate of cricothyrotomy in this population was a result of rapid transport to a more advanced provider capable of performing intubation or cricothyrotomy may not be meeting the needs of the medics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E474-E479
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - 1 May 2021
Externally publishedYes


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