Search on website
Show more
chevron-left-black Summaries

Difficult mask ventilation: Predictor

Difficult mask ventilation (DMV), defined as: “the inability of an unassisted anesthesiologist to maintain SpO2 >92%” is an uncommon but important scenario. Incidence of DMV in various studies has ranged from around 0.5 – 5%, with the largest review reporting an incidence of around 1%. Unfortunately DMV is difficult to predict, with one study reporting that only 17% of people found to have DMV had been predicted to have DMV. Importantly, patients who are difficult to mask ventilate have up to a fourfold higher incidence of being a difficult intubation that those who were easy to mask. Predictors of difficult mask ventilation include the following:

  • Age > 55
  • BMI > 26
  • Presence of a beard
  • Lack of teeth
  • History of snoring
  • Retrognathia
  • Mallampati score of 3 or 4
  • Male gender

Patients with 3 risk factors had a 20 fold greater incidence of DMV (around 5%) than those with 0 risk factors (incidence 0.25%).


  1. Kheterpal, S et al. Incidence and Predictors of Difficult and Impossible Mask Ventilation. Anesthesiology 2006; 105: 885-891. PubMed Link
  2. Langeron, O et al. Prediction of difficult mask ventilation. Anesthesiology 2000; 92:1229–36. PubMed Link

Other References

  1. Keys to the Cart: February 13, 2017; A 5-minute video review of ABA Keywords Link