Multidisciplinary Difficult Airway Team Characteristics, Airway Securement Success, and Clinical Outcomes: A Systematic Review

Vinciya Pandian, Talha U. Ghazi, Marielle Qiaoshu He, Ergest Isak, Abdulmalik Saleem, Lindsay R. Semler, Emily C. Capellari, Michael J. Brenner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objective: To investigate whether implementation of a multidisciplinary airway team was associated with improvement in (1) rate of successful airway securement at first attempt; (2) time to secure airway; and (3) overall complication rate in patients with a difficult airway, as compared with usual care. Data Sources: Ovid Medline, Embase, Scopus, Cochrane Central, and CINAHL databases. Review Methods: Systematic review of literature on inpatient multidisciplinary team management of difficult airways, including all studies performed in inpatient settings, excluding studies of ventilator weaning, flight/military medicine, EXIT procedures, and simulation or educational studies. DistillerSR was used for article screening and risk of a bias assessment to evaluate article quality. Data was extracted on study design, airway team composition, patient characteristics, and clinical outcomes including airway securement, complications, and mortality. Results: From 5323 studies screened, 19 studies met inclusion criteria with 4675 patients. Study designs included 12 quality improvement projects, 6 cohort studies, and 1 randomized controlled trial. Four studies evaluated effect of multidisciplinary difficult airway teams on airway securement; all reported higher first attempt success rate with team approach. Three studies reported time to secure the difficult airways, all reporting swifter airway securement with team approach. The most common difficult airway complications were hypoxia, esophageal intubation, hemodynamic instability, and aspiration. Team composition varied, including otolaryngologists, anesthesiologists, intensivists, nurses, and respiratory care practitioners. Conclusion: Multidisciplinary difficult airway teams are associated with improved clinical outcomes compared to unstructured emergency airway management; however, studies have significant heterogeneity in team composition, algorithms for airway securement, and outcomes reported. Further evidence is necessary to define the clinical efficacy, cost-effectiveness, and best practices relating to implementing difficult airway teams in inpatient settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)938-954
Number of pages17
JournalAnnals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • airway management
  • difficult airway
  • multidisciplinary team
  • patient safety
  • quality improvement
  • systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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