Podcast 92 – EMCrit Intubation Checklist


Since Peter Pronovost’s landmark study on how a simple checklist can nearly abolish central line infections, checklists have been the darling of the medical literature. But central lines generally are for elective procedures, allowing us the time and patience to run through the list. Can we gain the same safety and cognitive benefits in an adrenaline-laden procedure like intubation? Hell yeah!

It all starts with the EMCrit Intubation Checklist

preview of the emcrit airway checlist

Download the checklist

The Components

HOp Killers

Here is the wee on the HOp Killers: Hemodynamic Kills, Oxygenation Kills, and pH Kills

RSI or Awake? · DSI? · RSA? · ICP/Vascular?

Are the peri-intubation medications ready?

RSI Meds

Push-Dose Pressors

What is the plan for unexpected difficult or failed airway?

Can the cricothyroid membrane be palpated?

What is the plan for post-intubation sedation?

Is the patient positioned adequately?

from AirwayCam Site
from AirwayCam Site

Would the patient benefit from pre-intubation NGT?

Skills of Intubation



See this post for all things surgical airway

Post Intubation Management

Building Checklists

Other People’s Intubation Checklists for Inspiration

The EMCrit checklist drew inspiration and aid from these other checklists. Shoulders of giants and such…

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  1. Tim Lewis says

    Scott, amazing work. We’re in your debt. The plan jargon makes great sense of hardcore Emcriters – but wondered if there was a way to make the planing list intuitive to those not yet converted. I tried putting it into a flow diagram for you to look at. How can I send it? tim

  2. Dave Barounis says


    I love the checklist, I think its a great reminder to everyone. I think an important thing to mention is that the 0 PEEP in the COPDer and asthmatic may be reasonable, at least initially, but often times the auto-PEEP makes triggering of the ventilator more difficult. The patient needs to create an inspiratory effort to overcome the positive alveolar pressure that occurs due to auto-PEEP. Therefore, the patient will be incredibly uncomfortable on the vent unless paralyzed/heavily sedated. It’s not uncommon to see the patient actually breathing 30, but when looking at the vent they are AC 12, breathing 12 due to their inability to trigger the vent. I think for most people adding PEEP (80% of their intrinsic) or probably just 5 cm of H20 is equally as reasonable to reduce the work of breathing when auto-peeping.

    If they are heavily sedated or paralyzed so they are not triggering at all, then the point is likely moot. What are you thoughts on this?


    • says

      Dave, These are initial vent settings; during the first few hours after intubation for asthma the pt should not be triggering at all. They should be profoundly deeply sedated. In the later stage, all PEEP will do is allow triggering, not reduce the work of breathing (just as you mention). If the pt is spontaneously breathing, PEEP is fine just as you say.

  3. Minh Le Cong says

    thanks Scott!
    My suggestions
    Print it on a T shirt, front and back
    Make an app with it
    build it into common patient monitors as an electronic checklist

    we are not worthy sir
    you be the man

  4. says

    Hey Scott,

    Awesome work, a true culmination of almost half of your podcasts to date.
    It’s hilarious that half the acronyms were coined by you, so it only makes half as much sense to the non EM-critters out there.
    One suggestion for the team portion is giving specific instructions to your in-line stabilizer for the collared patients, so that they know exactly what they are doing.



  5. says

    Looks great. I have already created the local version for my shop. Will flick it to you for interest’s sake. Had to alter a few things due to drug and practice variability, but essentially it is the same. Thanks mate. Looking forward to seeing it in action. Ours will be printed on card and pre-folded and taped to the plastic packaging of each airway tray in our resus bays so that you can’t fail to see it when readying for a tube.

    • says

      Hey Scott – I tried PDF Expert but couldn’t get it to look nice to generated from scratch. Like I said, I changed heaps – not because I disagree but because local drugs and practice vary some, and I have to keep some old-timers happy. Eg, for non American’s the Cric Con phrase just doesn’t work here, we don’t have etomidate, hydro morphine, etc.

  6. says

    Great checklist Scott. One question on dosing of paralytic in the hypotensive patient. I see the recommended dosing increases for hypotension. Why is this?

  7. says

    Hi Scott. Love the checklist and summary of all Pearls Airway. I will plan to incorporate this into my practice, spread it to my ED group and look for its application in Critical Care Transports. Love the podcast, CME site, webtext and your ACEP lectures etc etc. A few first thoughts as I am looking through this in detail. This is more my preference but I like to have people think of bougie as part of 1st attempt so I group them into the routine intubation equipment checklist (vs failed airway). I also like to reinforce using NPA’s + OPA’s for initially failing BVM (2 NPA’s not mentioned on face sheet but on back notes), also potentially helpful for apneic oxygenation. I would consider adding reminder for ramping for ++BMI and rev trendel (mentioned in back notes tho) for ++BMI or c-collared. Please also note that in some circles “hockey stick” stylet shaping is >>35 degrees which is not helpful (perhaps only in Canada, old practice for anterior airway pre bougie popularity) and bent at wrong place so I like to call it straight-to-cuff to differentiate it. Perhaps also some reference to optimized 1st pass success without hypoxia to encompass the thoughts of primacy of oxygenation, choosing 1st best technique that addresses obvious difficulties, minimizing attempts and also to remind about optimal techniques like epiglottoscopy, laryngeal exposure and tube delivery for both DL, VL and fiber. And any room to consider the surgically inevitable airway where cric (potentially awake) is plan A +/- double setup? Man you fit a lot on one page. GREAT job!

    • says

      I too like bougie on the 1st pass. It is always at the bedside for my intubations. I brought NPA to the front. No need for separate ramping note for high BMI, the positioning is the same for all. Face plane parallel and ears to notch forces ramping in the fatties. Changed hockey stick terminology. CricCon 3 is your double set-up and is on the sheet. Thanks for the additions!

      • says

        Thanks. Any consideration for the mnemonics/reminder lists for difficulties in DL, VL, SGA and surgical? It could potentially be a checklist to ensure one is choosing the optimal airway technique in the planning stage for the stable patient (eg check mouth, difficulty for BVM and SGA then caution for RSI). It does start to get unwieldy if you add too much, or maybe on the back notes although that is pretty full already too.

        • says

          Don’t find those lists of predictors to be useful. Assume any airway you do may be unexpectedly difficult to intubate, place an lma, mask, and cric.

          • says

            Agree that they do not help to rule out difficulty: not sensitive enough so all airways must be assumed to be unexpectedly difficult and plan for failure always. However I do think that predictors can help one structure and plan out (especially the novice and if there is time) what airway approach is best and what plans A, B, C or D might be. E.g. If surgically inevitable and approaches from the mouth and nose are too difficult, improbable or impossible, then perhaps plan A should be cric or CricCon3/double setup. I guess this is actually just basic airway assessment whether it is Airway Course approach LEMON BONES RODS SHORT (I hate mnemonics tho as I never remember them or what they stand for) or @emupdates’ bites bullets burns (also I add bodies for FB and tumor) or Levitan’s oral route possible / laryngotrach path / 4 D’s of difficult laryngoscopy. I think perhaps the expert and experienced intubator does this all in their head subconsciously. The occasional or novice intubator might need this structure for best approach. Not sure if it needs to be in a checklist or just ingrained in one’s mind (the latter is better for sure) as different people have diff ways they like to think about it. Thanks for the chat about this. The flip side is sometimes I worry about obsessing too much about it when the guy just needs DL and to be intubated, then move onto next problem!

  8. Matt King says

    Hey Scott amazing stuff. You have worked so hard to help us do better and for that I clap very loud for your Sir. I know you have tried to help me in the past with printing this out front and back for the first two pages, but it’s just not working out. So the second page prints out long ways and the boxes are 6″ wide by 2.5″ tall. Perfect size. But when I print out the first page the entire text is roughly 7 & 3/4″ wide. Sorry I’m being such a pain in the ass, but this is just not working out. I’m just not understanding how printing this on both sides makes it convenient or functional. It seems to me that this is meant for a wall or cart only and not your flight suit or lab coat. Are there plans to make this for those enviornments? FOr now I have know where to keep this. I know I know it’s the operator. Need some more guidance. Thanks for your patience…



  9. says

    Also, I echo your thought to add look in mouth as part of checklist. Levitan I think tells a story where a guy’s jaws were wired together was combative not cooperative and good thing he looked in the mouth/tried to talk to the patient (as any good doc would)! Minor curiosity: awake intubation has neb lido 4% 5ml@6lpm, I assume that it is a trick to remember 4,5,6? (the podcasts I think said 5lpm but really no diff 5 or 6). By the way I printed it duplex and pdf worked fine as is.

  10. Jeff says

    Very well done Scott! I have to figure a way of making this (Intubation checklist) work in the pre-hospital setting. Too much great information here to not use it.


  11. Minh Le Cong says

    Hi Scott
    An anonymous Canadian provider pointed out to me something about the checklist.
    In regard to Awake intubation, it states to consider this if expected difficult airway, anatomically or physiologically. There are details about how to do the awake technique,
    However, there really are no details about what your definition is of a difficult airway, at least from an anatomical viewpoint. I assume you are leaving up to the intubator to judge based on experience?

    so the question is how does a novice or occasional intubator decide when to proceed with an awake intubation, based on the checklist?

    • Sean Marshall says

      Thanks Minh, but no need for anonymity. I don’t mind putting my name to the comments, in the spirit of FOAM. I highly value both yours and Scott’s comments. I also appreciate Scott saying that gut feeling is more reasonable than mnemonics in the heat of battle.

      I’m still in the midst of trying to introduce alternatives like awake intubation, DSI, double setup, etc to my peers, and frankly still fighting an uphill battle to convince my intensivist colleagues that paralytics are safest for most cases. I guess I’m just longing for a decision tool that helps teach the gestalt of which airway plan to choose without relying on multiple cumbersome mnemonics.

      Thanks guys!

      • says

        I agree: my brain won’t retain anything beyond LEMON. I am still struggling to find an easy reliable way to remember, teach and use airway decision making. Currently I like looking for difficulty in anatomy, disrupted airway (bullets bites burns blood bodies (adopted from @emupdates)) and difficult physiology as in HOp and ICP/vascular. (Thanks Scott for that amongst everything else). I would love to hear/discuss/learn more of what goes into gut decision of best airway approach. EMCRIT podcast would be great.

  12. Jay Baker says

    Great work Scott. I am going to teach this to my residents at Monday Morning Report.

    1. I put the checklist on my iPad but the second page keeps on turning on its side when I turn it up to look at it straight. Therefore I cannot look at it straight nor use my iPad to teach it. I use Notability. Do you know a fix or alternative app? With the fiscal cliff and budget impasse they repair Army printers a lot slower than they used to…
    2. Do you plan to study and validate this per Pronovost et al?

    Keep pushing forward.

    • Rebecca says

      re the iPad issue…if you double click the home button it should bring up a horizontal list of recently opened apps. Swipe to the right and tap the icon all the way to the right. The text at the bottom of your screen should say “Portrait Orientation Locked” and the icon will change. Tap the screen or press the home button again to return to normal operation. Now your iPad will not rotate when you turn it on its side. (Just repeat the process to get it back to the way it was.) The same process works with iPhone.

        • Jay Baker says

          I trained 6 residents with the checklist this AM. We went through every item then did an in situ sim case. The scenario was a COPD patient with housefire exposure. This being our first use, it took 8 minutes from EMS report until checklist completion. There’s a lot to do to make a safe intubation.

          One of the residents liked it so much he’s going to use it for his QI project and train the entire residency starting with a GR talk then sim for everyone. We’ll probably get some interprofessional play as well.

          Thanks for the mobile version.

  13. Chris Hill says

    Hi Scott,

    Excellent work. As a HEMS doc i am really used to checklists and love your efforts – definitely keen to adapt for local use.

    One thing i have learnt from aircraft emergency drill books is the importance of using colour. The designers of these checklists use colour to highlight certain points and increase the ease of use on the eye during high demand processes. Do you have a sexy multicoloured version? There is too much grey here in the UK!

    Great synopsis of how it should be done though. Thanks


    • says

      I have not gone that direction b/c I want people to be able to print it easily. I had not seen color in many of the aeronautic checklists either. Do you have an example of a checklist that makes great use of color that I could see?

  14. says


    As always- great stuff and something I can instantly use on my next shift.

    My one question- for awake intubations you say to use “ketamine heavy” ketofol. Just curious what your thought process is behind that. Less hypotension from less propofol?

  15. says

    Great, stuff. I was wondering if you have a good reference on the dosages for your RSI drugs. We are working through standardizing our sedatives and paralytics and need some good references for the dosages. I’m sure I’m missing the data of pubmed, but I can’t seem to find something really convincing.

  16. Andreas says

    Great post Scott. Very useful!
    I miss one thing that is emphasised in our system (university hospital in Norway): Back here its the anestestist that handle all advanced airway management ( ER, OR, ICU), and in a presumed difficult airway case, we would always consider taking the patient to the OR for securing the airway. Of course if time to it. That is generally our most familiar environment with the OR team, ventilators, good light and the setup we are using all day.
    I guess your most familiar environment is the ER, but in many systems it will be another location. So, if expecting serious trouble; make sure you are at the optimal location

  17. says

    Question: do you view HOp kills much differently from how ICP/Vascular problems might also potentially kill too? Catecholamine/ sympathomimetic concerns like high ICP, ICH (including hypertensive ecclampsia needing intubation), SAH, Ao diss, cardiac ischemia being amongst my worries. The way I am seeing it in my head is to bundle HOp kills and catecholamine driven bad effects of intubation together (CHOp kills?). Trying to see why ICP/Vasc is separated out along with RSI/DSI/RSA/Awake. Think you said a podcast on it is pending?

    Question 2: Do you think adding strategies to intubation/post-intubation management of status asthmaticus or status epilepticus for the checklist would make it too unwieldy?

    • says

      I think about these two a little differently. The ICP/Vascular requires a bunch of prep time and while it can make matters worse generally doesn’t cause cardiac arrest (though I guess a ruptured AD may be pretty bad.) The key difference is that if you need to intubate NOW, the ICP/Vascular stuff gets shunted aside.

      Post-intubation for asthma is on there, other strategies are another checklist.

  18. says

    I’m having thoughts of adapting/using this for procedural sedation analgesia … maybe the whole package is not required for the routine healthy person for orthopedic reduction, however, much of the checklist is helpful for the other extreme of PSA like the sick emergent cardioversion who might have borderline BP or sats. Great to have checklists like this when doing high acuity low frequency procedures.

  19. says

    Another thought for the checklist (unless I missed it) is dosing for morbid obesity … succinylcholine is per total body weight versus propofol and rocuronium is per ideal body weight. Ketamine I have seen as being per lean body weight or ideal body weight. Etomidate I have seen one source say per total body weight (Annals EM 56:2, 2010) and another as per lean body weight (Br J Anes 105:suppl 1 2010). What do you use?

    • says

      For paralytics, I would always err on the side of too much rather than too little, so I ignore the roc. IBW and just do TBW for both. For sedatives I don’t care as much b/c I am dosing based on gestalt. Here are Strayer’s choices.

  20. Joe Kozar says

    In the equipment box: failed airway equipment at bedside – should probably add a smaller ETT like a 6.0 or 6.5 for a bougie aided cric.

    Great work Scott

  21. Clint Kalan says

    Hey there Dr. Weingart,
    I think the checklist is a great tool for intubation and I applaud your desire to continually tweak and improve it, just like they do all the time for aviation checklists. While I think that something like emergency ET intubation is something that requires a dedicated checklist, there are things we do all the time that should require a 30 second briefing (I hate the phrase “time out”) that we blow past. It’s in the same vein as how we probably underutilize sedation for common painful proceedures.
    I’ve attached a standardized prompt that my boss Ken Phillips at the Grand Canyon adapted from Karl Weck (and that I re-stole from this website: https://sites.google.com/site/sarbook1/sar-briefing). We used it before we did just about anything (searches, law enforcement situations…), but most especially retreivals from the inner canyon.

    It is another very useful briefing format and great for fast balls or on-the-spot briefings in emergencies.

    Here’s what I think we face.
    Here’s what I think we should do.
    Here’s why.
    Here’s what we should keep our eye on.
    Now… talk to me.

    *Adapted by Ken Phillips from Karl Weick;
    South Canyon Revisited- Lessons from High Reliability Organizations
    Also, in their book: Managing the unexpected: resilient performance in an age of uncertainty By Karl E. Weick, Kathleen M. Sutcliffe, they refer to this method and state that Gary Klein, author of “Sources of Power” calls it the STICC method. Situation Task Intent Concern Calibrate.

    I think it could be best used before a suspected emergent intubation/trauma/septic patient even hit the door when you got the call over the radio.

    Thanks again for all the amazing work. Will be staying up at night driving my girlfriend crazy watching SMACC talks for the next week…

  22. Jeff Siegler says

    When do you think we unfortunate souls who weren’t able to make it to SMACC will be able to hear you talk about intubating the hemodynamically unstable patient?

  23. Lakshay Chanana says

    Hi Scott
    dealt with a difficult Airway during my last shift..I failed twice (oesophagus) and eventually one go colleagues did it…There was a lot of confusion about the position whether its in esoph or trachea. Since we do not have wETCO2 in our ER, So I was wondering if we can confirm the tube placement by inserting a bougie into the tube and feel for tracheal rings before we start bagging!!


    • says

      Feeling rings won’t work. You can gently pass the bougie to find hold-up. The confusion is natural it is why ETCO2 became a requirement in all operating rooms in the USA.

    • See Limes says

      You need ETCO2
      Do you have access to USS? Watching the ETT pass into trachea might be an alternative
      But ETCO2 is the standard. Use it.

  24. Reedsposer22 says

    Wow, awesome site. Im a 4th year med student, came across this site searching for HINTS tests for constant vertigo, i came across these amazing site. Im at hennepin county in minnesota for an ER rotation, and saw a vertigo pt. this blog was so helpful. Now im watching random vids, thanks so much for the amazing work.

  25. Mathieu Moreau says

    Great podcast, as always. The program/app you use is perfect for presentations on checklist and protocols? What is it?
    One suggestion: since a member of the team is being dedicated for SpO2, he might as well check for BP & hemodynamics during the periintubation period.

      • SamG says

        Hey Scott,

        It makes sense that in a low CO state two things would be true:
        #1. Much lower dose of a med is required
        #2. Onset of med will take longer

        With respect to the sedative- we drastically reduce the dose (#1), so as not to flood the pt with a relative overdose that would further compromising hemodynamics.

        With respect to the paralytic, I assume #1 is still true, except we don’t really care about relatively “overdosing”, and so we address #2 by increasing the dose to shorten onset time.

        However, I would also assume that #2 still holds true for the sedative– so with these dosage alterations, is there any concern that the paralytic kicks in a significant amt of time before the sedative?

        • says

          ketamine, etomidate, and propofol are all single pass meds. Ketamine will have taken effect within one circulation time–this will not be sig. altered even in shock state so long as there is any blood flow.

  26. Paul says


    This is beautiful but is there any chance of making a black and white version without the shading and normal fonts? It doesn’t print nice on my generic black and white printer at home. Not sure how it does on hospital BW laser printers. Just a thought. Thanks for your work and time.

  27. says

    Has anybody seen a study that actually shows improved outcomes using paralytics as opposed to not?

    Has anybody seen a patient cough after getting Ketamine or Etomidate?

    Jim Jones in Texas

  28. Vishal Raj says

    Hello Scott

    Just wondering if elevation of bed to an angle around 30 degree ,will give better view of the cords during intubation and make it easier or not ?


  1. […] What checklists do is remind us of which we are not ignorant of – we know we need that stylette, it’s just that we become too task saturated and we miss the basics.  Checklists make sure we don’t make errors of ineptitude. This culture of checklists is not just limited to doctors or the surgical suite – it can apply to paramedics and has been used very successfully in EMS systems.  See for example Sydney HEMS approach to RSI at http://sydneyhems.com/2013/01/05/rapid-sequence-intubation-in-retrieval-medicine/.  In particular, see their manuals at http://nswhems.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/rsimanual2-1-oct-2012.pdf.  Page 14 of the manual has the checklist I have attached here. Here are some other great checklists: Weingart’s: http://emcrit.org/podcasts/emcrit-intubation-checklist/ and http://lifeinthefastlane.com/rsi-checklist-and-action-plan/ […]

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