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Learning curve for paramedic endotracheal intubation and complications

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Pre-hospital laryngoscopic endotracheal intubation (ETI) is potentially a life-saving procedure but is a technique difficult to acquire. This study aimed to obtain a recommendation for the number of times ETI should be practiced by constructing the learning curve for endotracheal intubation by paramedics, as well as to report the change in the frequency of complications possibly associated with intubation over the training period.


Under training conditions, 32 paramedics performed a total of 1,045 ETIs in an operating room. Trainees performed ETIs until they succeeded in 30 cases. For each patient, the number of laryngoscopic maneuvers and any complications potentially associated with ETI were recorded. We built a generalized logistic model to construct the learning curve for ETI and the frequency of complications.


During the training on the first 30 patients the rate of ETI success at the first attempt improved from 71% to 87%, but there was little improvement during the first 13 cases. The frequency of complications decreased from 53% to 31%. More laryngoscopic maneuvers and longer operation time increased complications.


It seems that 30 live experiences of performing an ETI is sufficient for obtaining a 90% ETI success rate, but there seems to be little benefit with fewer than 13 experiences. The frequency of complications remained at a high level even after the training. It is desirable to conduct a more detailed and rigorous evaluation of the benefit of pre-hospital ETI by controlling for the skill level of paramedics.

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