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Original Research

Open Access Special Issue

Effects of age on emergency airway management

  • Sho-Ting Hung1,2,†
  • Jerry Cheng-Yen Lai3,†
  • Wen-Han Chang4,5,6,†
  • Hui-Chun Ku7

1Department of radiology, Taitung MacKay Memorial Hospital, 95054 Taitung, Taiwan

2MacKay Junior College of Medicine, Nursing, and Management, 11260 Taipei, Taiwan

3Department of Medical Research, Taitung MacKay Memorial Hospital, 95054 Taitung, Taiwan

4Department of Emergency Medicine, Mackay Memorial Hospital, 10449 Taipei, Taiwan

5Department of Medicine, Mackay Medical College, 25245 New Taipei, Taiwan

6Institute of Mechatronic Engineering, National Taipei University of Technology, 10652 Taipei, Taiwan

7Department of Life Science, Fu-Jen Catholic University, 24205 New Taipei City, Taiwan

DOI: 10.22514/sv.2020.16.0109 Vol.17,Issue 2,March 2021 pp.127-131

Published: 08 March 2021

*Corresponding Author(s): Hui-Chun Ku E-mail:

† These authors contributed equally.


Background/Purpose: Age is considered a risk factor for a difficult airway (DA) and can serve as guidance towards a quick decision in the management of an emergency airway. However, the effect of age on a DA is seldom evaluated. This study investigated the effect of age on the difficulty of emergency airway management to anticipate DAs, which would allow physicians to provide alternative approaches beforehand, thereby increasing the quality of emergency airway management in elderly patients.

Methods: A study form that recorded potential risk factors for a DA was designed. Research nurses and physicians who had performed tracheal intubation completed a case report form in the emergency department of a medical centre for over a year. Risk factors for a DA were identified using logistic regression.

Results: We recorded 114 attempts during the study period. Difficult mask ventilation (60.9% vs 10.0%, P < 0.001), but not difficult intubation (29.7% vs 22.0%, P = 0.355), was more frequently observed among elderly people compared with nonelderly patients.

Conclusion: Physicians should anticipate difficult mask ventilation in emergency airway management, especially in elderly people, and patients with sunken cheeks or a short and thick neck.


Anatomy; Aging; Airway management; Difficult airway; Difficult mask ventilation; Difficult intubation; Elderly; Emergency airway management; Endotracheal intubation

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Sho-Ting Hung,Jerry Cheng-Yen Lai,Wen-Han Chang,Hui-Chun Ku. Effects of age on emergency airway management. Signa Vitae. 2021. 17(2);127-131.


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