Angioedema is an uncommon but important cause of airway obstruction. Emergency airway management of angioedema is difficult. We seek to describe the course and outcomes of emergency airway management for severe angioedema in our institution.
We performed a retrospective, observational study of all intubations for angioedema performed in an urban academic emergency department (ED) between November 2007 and June 2015. We performed a structured review of video recordings of each intubation. We identified the methods of airway management, the success of each method, and the outcomes and complications of the effort.
We identified 52 patients with angioedema who were intubated in the ED; 7 were excluded because of missing videos, leaving 45 patients in the analysis. Median time from arrival to the ED to the first intubation attempt was 33 minutes (interquartile range 17 to 79 minutes). Nasotracheal intubation was the most common first method (33/45; 73%), followed by video laryngoscopy (7/45; 16%). Two patients required attempts at more invasive airway procedures (retrograde intubation and cricothyrotomy). The intubating laryngeal mask airway was used as a rescue method 5 times after failure of multiple methods, with successful oxygenation, ventilation, and intubation through the laryngeal mask airway in all 5 patients. All patients were successfully intubated.
In this series of ED patients who were intubated because of angioedema, emergency physicians used a range of methods to successfully manage the airway. These observations provide key lessons for the emergency airway management of these critical patients.