Laryngoscopy can be described as endoscopy of the larynx, which used to facilitate tracheal intubation during general anesthesia or cardiopulmonary resuscitation. For decades, direct laryngoscopy has been the standard technique for tracheal intubation. But today, there are two main types of laryngoscopy: direct and indirect. Indirect laryngoscopy means the provider visualizes the patient’s vocal cords without having a direct line of sight. Indirect Laryngoscopy includes video laryngoscopes, fiberoptic bronchoscopes, and optically-enhanced laryngoscopes. Video laryngoscopy introduced in recent years and it aims to overcome the limitations of direct laryngoscopy by using a camera attached to the laryngoscope. While it has clear advantages over direct laryngoscopy, video laryngoscopy still has a high cost of investment. It remains a rare commodity for Emergency Medicine clinics, especially in resource-limited settings.
While the COVID-19 pandemic was affecting the world, the people who were under the most significant risk were healthcare workers. We know that the risk of transmission of the disease is quite high, especially when performing high-risk medical procedures such as endotracheal intubation. It is a known fact that personal protective equipment such as masks or face shields are very important in protection. But it is even more important to stay physically away from the patient whenever possible. When intubating a patient, video laryngoscopy has a clear advantage in terms of eliminating the need to approach the patient’s head and trying to have a direct line of sight.
Video laryngoscopy devices are expensive. But, if you think about the essential components of it, you can easily realize that it doesn’t have to be this way. You need a blade, a camera system, a display, and a way to attach the blade and the camera system. While laryngoscopy blades are essential for Emergency clinics anyway, I can safely assume every Emergency clinic has them. A camera system and a display are also both fairly cheap and easy to obtain for most of the places on earth. Find those three and voila! You have a cheap video laryngoscope (In this post, I will not elaborate on the technique of combining a normal blade with a video camera).
For those who want to go to the next level, there are some ways of making your very own prettier video laryngoscopy devices. You just need a 3D printer, but luckily it is possible to find 3D printers in many cities these days.
So here we go.
The pandemic paved the way for innovation in many ways. Numerous doctors from all over the world rolled up their sleeves to develop new medical devices. Yasemin Özdamar, an Emergency Medicine specialist from Turkey, designed 3D-printable video laryngoscope blades named “Umay” (possibly an allusion to Orkhon inscriptions) in pediatric and adult forms based on normal laryngoscope blades.
AirAngel is a not-for-profit tutorial center dedicated to making video laryngoscopes accessible in under-resourced nations. You can purchase the blade or video laryngoscopy devices from their website with a fairly low price of US$100-180. You can also get the file of the blade for free and 3D print it yourself. Its design is really similar to a D blade. You can head to AirAngel’s website and grab the printing file now.
Here is an example tutorial for AirAngel:
In our tests (in Turkey), the cost of printing one blade approximately 50 Turkish Liras (roughly equal to US$7 with today’s exchange rates). We also bought a “Borescope USB Camera” with a camera head outer diameter of 5.5mm from our local internet store for approximately US$13 (A similar product from Amazon). So, the cost was US$20 in total, which is cheaper than AirAngel’s offer, and a lot cheaper than a conventional video laryngoscope. We have attached the camera to the blade using special parts on them and connected the camera to a phone. And under a minute, a video laryngoscope was born.
Please note: The intended purpose of these designs is to be used as a training tool. They do not replace any medical-grade video laryngoscope systems. They are not in any way approved medical device designs, nor have they been reviewed by the FDA or any other organization. Be aware that many plastics vary in strength, heat resistance, and chemical resistance. The strength and durability of the blade will vary depending on what you print it with. Harmful and life-threatening complications may occur if pieces break in the airway.