The future of paramedic intubation: who should be responsible?

Prehospital airway management in trauma patients has been the subject of debate among many professionals for a number of years. At present, the gold standard for airway management and optimal ventilation is endotracheal intubation. Paramedics, as the frontline prehospital care providers, are currently able to practice endotracheal intubation in order to secure an airway, but only when the patient is comatose with no gag reflex. Training in endotracheal intubation has been under close scrutiny by regulatory bodies such as the Joint Royal Colleges Ambulance Service Liaison Committee, with emphasis on using other techniques to secure the airway, including supra-glottic airway devices. Rapid sequence induction and drug assisted airway management is only carried out by doctors working in the prehospital arena. However, a number of studies document that paramedics are more than capable of carrying out successful rapid sequence induction in trauma patients. This article considers the training received by paramedics in airway management, techniques that are employed and the influence of current literature on the debate over paramedic endotracheal intubation.

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