This is a retrospective study of patients whose tracheas were impossible to intubate on a previous occasion. There is a correlation between the degree of difficulty and the anatomy of the oropharynx in the same patient. The study was initially on obstetric patients but was extended to nonobstetric surgical patients in order to increase the number of cases investigated. The incidence of failed intubations in the obstetric group over a 3-year period was seven out of 1980 cases, whereas in the surgical group the results were six out of 13 380 patients. Any screening test which adds to our ability to predict difficulty in intubation must be welcomed, as failure to intubate can potentially lead to fatality.