The skill of tracheal intubation with rigid scopes - a randomised controlled trial comparing learning curves in 740 intubations.

Theiler, Lorenz; Greif, Robert; Bütikofer, Lukas; Arheart, Kristopher; Kleine-Brueggeney, Maren (2020). The skill of tracheal intubation with rigid scopes - a randomised controlled trial comparing learning curves in 740 intubations. BMC anesthesiology, 20(1), p. 263. BioMed Central 10.1186/s12871-020-01181-w

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Rigid scopes are successfully used for management of difficult airways, but learning curves have not been established.


This randomised controlled trial was performed at the University Hospital Bern in Switzerland to establish learning curves for the rigid scopes Bonfils and SensaScope and to assess their performance. Fifteen consultant anaesthetists and 15 anaesthesia registrars performed a total of 740 intubations (10 to 20 intubations with each device per physician) in adult patients without predictors of a difficult airway under general anaesthesia. According to randomisation, physicians intubated the patient's trachea with either the Bonfils or the SensaScope. A maximum of three intubation attempts was allowed. Primary outcome was overall time to successful intubation. Secondary outcome parameters included first attempt success, first attempt success within 60 s, failures and adverse events.


A clear learning effect was demonstrated: Over 20 trials, intubations became 2.5-times quicker and first attempt intubation success probability increased by 21-28 percentage points. Fourteen and 20 trials were needed with the Bonfils and the SensaScope, respectively, to reach a 90% first attempt success probability. Intubation times were 23% longer (geometric mean ratio 1.23, 95% confidence interval 1.12-1.36, p < 0.001) and first attempt success was less likely (odds ratio 0.64, 95% confidence interval 0.45-0.92, p = 0.016) with the SensaScope. Consultants showed a tendency for a better first attempt success compared to registrars. Overall, 23 intubations (10 Bonfils, 13 SensaScope) failed. Adverse events were rare and did not differ between devices.


A clear learning effect was demonstrated for both rigid scopes. Fourteen intubations with the Bonfils and 20 intubations with the SensaScope were required to reach a 90% first attempt success probability. Learning of the technique seemed more complex with the SensaScope compared to the Bonfils.


Current Controlled Trials, ISRCTN14429285 . Registered 28 September 2011, retrospectively registered.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Department of Clinical Research (DCR)
04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Intensive Care, Emergency Medicine and Anaesthesiology (DINA) > Clinic and Policlinic for Anaesthesiology and Pain Therapy

UniBE Contributor:

Greif, Robert, Bütikofer, Lukas (B)


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




BioMed Central




Beatrice Minder Wyssmann

Date Deposited:

26 Oct 2020 12:31

Last Modified:

20 Feb 2024 14:16

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Difficult airway management Learning curves Procedural skills Rigid scopes Tracheal intubation




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