Difficult airway management algorithms: a directed review

D. A. Edelman, E. J. Perkins, D. J. Brewster

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The primary aim of this study was to identify, describe and compare the content of existing difficult airway management algorithms. Secondly, we aimed to describe the literature reporting the implementation of these algorithms. A directed search across three databases (MEDLINE, Embase and Scopus) was performed. All articles were screened for relevance to the research aims and according to pre-determined exclusion criteria. We identified 38 published airway management algorithms. Our results show that most facemask employ a four-step process as represented by a flow chart, with progression from tracheal intubation, facemask ventilation and supraglottic airway device use, to a rescue emergency surgical airway. The identified algorithms are overwhelmingly similar, yet many use differing terminology. The frequency of algorithm publication has increased recently, yet adherence and implementation outcome data remain limited. Our results highlight the lack of a single algorithm that is universally endorsed, recognised and applicable to all difficult airway management situations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1175-1185
Number of pages11
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019


  • airway management
  • airway research
  • difficult airway algorithm
  • guidelines
  • human factors

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