oa Southern African Journal of Anaesthesia and Analgesia - Description and comparison of the performance of the upper lip bite test, the ratio of height to thyromental distance and other methods of preoperative airway assessment in a Nigerian population – a pilot study

Volume 25 Number 5
  • ISSN : 2220-1181
  • E-ISSN: 2220-1173



Background: The ability to reliably predict difficult intubation can prevent airway related adverse outcomes. The upper lip bite test (ULBT) and ratio of height to thyromental distance (RHTMD) are airway predictive tests that have been evaluated in Caucasian populations with promising results. This study determined the test performance of the ULBT and RHTMD and compared with commonly employed predictive tests (modified Mallampati [MMT], thyromental distance [TMD] and inter-incisor gap [IIG]) in adult Nigerians.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional study. Two hundred and sixteen consecutive, consenting ASA I-III patients presenting for surgery and planned for general anaesthesia with endotracheal intubation over a six month period in our teaching hospital, had all five airway assessment tests (ULBT, RHTMD, MMT, TMD and IIG) assessed preoperatively. The Cormack and Lehane grading was used to determine easy or difficult visualisation of the larynx (EVL or DVL). Sensitivity, specificity, predictive values and likelihood ratios of the tests were determined.

Results: The sensitivities, specificities, positive and negative predictive values and positive and negative likelihood ratios respectively for the tests were: ULBT (11.8%, 99.0%, 50.0%, 92.9%, 11.71 and 0.89), RHTMD (35.3%, 92.5%, 28.6%, 94.4%, 4.68 and 0.70), TMD (29.4%, 97.5%, 50.0%, 94.2%, 11.71 and 0.72), MMT (52.9%, 86.4%, 25.0%, 95.6%, 3.90 and 0.54), and IIG (11.8%, 97.0%, 25.0%, 92.8%, 3.90 and 0.91).

Conclusion: The modified Mallampati test had the highest sensitivity in this study, however all the tests evaluated showed only low to moderate sensitivity. The ULBT and RHTMD had low sensitivities in this population. However, based on the high positive likelihood ratios of the ULBT and the TMD, whenever positive, these tests do show a high probability of DVL and these two tests would probably perform similarly in this population. Anthropometric differences may account for differences in performance of preoperative airway assessment tests in various populations.

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