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Original Research

Availability of difficult airway equipment to rural anaesthetists in Queensland, Australia

Submitted: 23 May 2008
Revised: 3 September 2008
Published: 14 October 2008

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Author(s) : Eley V, Lloyd B, Scott J, Greenland K.

Victoria EleyBen LloydJustin ScottKeith Greenland

Citation: Eley V, Lloyd B, Scott J, Greenland K.  Availability of difficult airway equipment to rural anaesthetists in Queensland, Australia. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2008; 8: 1020. Available: (Accessed 17 October 2017)


Introduction: Since 1990 several airway devices have become available to assist in difficult intubation. Multiple surveys have assessed difficult airway equipment availability in international anaesthetic departments and emergency departments. The practice of GP anaesthetists is unique in both its multidisciplinary nature and geographical isolation. Objectives: General practitioners performing general anaesthesia in rural and remote Queensland, Australia were surveyed to assess their access to difficult airway equipment and whether this was related to the remoteness of their location or attendance at continuing professional development activities.
Methods: Design: survey. Setting: proceduralists performing general anaesthesia in hospitals categorised as Rural, Remote and Metropolitan Area (RRMA) classification 4 to 7 inclusive were surveyed. Outcome measure: data collected included demographic information, availability of airway management equipment, and attendance at continuing professional development activities. The received data was entered into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and analysed in Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS Inc; Chicago, IL, USA) using the frequencies and crosstabs functions. The Fisher’s exact test was used. A p-value of less than 0.10 was considered noteworthy and a p-value of less than 0.05 was considered to be significant. A statistical comparison was made between the known demographics of the target population and the survey responders. The known demographics were derived from the Health Workforce Queensland database and included age, gender, practice location and practitioner type.
Results: Seventy-nine surveys were distributed and 35 returned (response rate 44%). This represented 21 hospitals. There was no statistical difference between the target population and the survey responders in terms of age and gender. There was no statistical difference in terms of practice location, although the small percentage responding from RRMA 6 was notable. There was a statistically significant difference between the groups in terms of practitioner type. Hospital-based practitioners were relatively under-represented in the responder group. Eighty-two per cent of practitioners felt they had access to appropriate equipment and this was not significantly related the remoteness of their location. There was wide variation in available equipment. Simple adjuncts such as the bougie and stylet were not universally available but cricothyroidotomy sets were more common. Practitioners in the more remote locations were less likely to have attended an educational activity such as conference, workshop or skills laboratory (p=0.05).
Conclusions: We suggest standardisation of difficult airway equipment for rural practitioners. This could be supported by increased availability of airway management workshops in remote areas. Such an intervention would be in line with other initiatives to standardise medical equipment in rural and remote Queensland hospitals. Familiarity with infrequently used equipment may assist practitioners and their locums. Standardisation of equipment and practice is a recognised method of improving patient safety.

Key words: anaesthesia, equipment and supplies, intratracheal intubation, laryngeal mask, rural health services.

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