Ventilation Perfusion Mismatch

There are 2 types of mismatch: dead space and shunt. Alveolar gas exchange depends not only on ventilation of the alveoli but also on circulation of blood through the alveolar capillaries. This makes sense. You need both oxygen in the alveoli, and adequate blood flow past alveoli to pick up oxygen, other wise oxygen cannot be delivered.

When the proper balance is lost between ventilated alveoli and good blood flow through the lungs, ventilation/perfusion mismatch is said to exist. The ventilation/perfusion ratio is often abbreviated V/Q. V/Q mismatch is common and often effects our patient’s ventilation and oxygenation. Read More …

Intubation With A Curved Blade

Direct laryngoscopy depends on being able to bring the 3 axes of the airway into alignment to see the larynx. Straight and curved blades use different techniques for bringing the larynx into view. Curved blades are commonly used, especially by beginners because they are more forgiving of less than optimal placement and provide more room to pass the tube. However, it’s important to use them correctly. This article will discuss intubation technique using a curved blade. Read More …

Help! My Anesthesia Machine’s Not Working!

There is nothing quite as scary as being in the middle of administering an anesthetic and having your anesthesia machine fail. In my 36 years of anesthesia practice I’ve had this happen to me a few times. Knowing how to quickly troubleshoot your machine, and knowing how to protect your patient are important, potentially life-saving skills. It helps to have thought through the steps to rescue the situation before it happens to you. This article discussed the steps you should take if your machine fails. Read More …

Codeine Risk In Children, Especially Those With Sleep Apnea

Although the initial FDA warnings about potentially fatal codeine overdose in children were released in 2012, I’m recently discovered that a few of my surgeon and nursing colleagues were still unaware of the potential risks. This article reviews some of the risks of using codeine in the pediatric population as well as the patient’s at highest risk for potentially fatal respiratory depression. Read More …

Intubation: Step By Step

Fall is the time of year when new students commonly begin to learn how to intubate. My first intubation was one of the first times I literally held someone’s life in my hands. I was nervous. The anesthesiologist teaching me tried to not look too anxious as I awkwardly grabbed my laryngoscope blade, fumbled while opening the patient’s mouth, and cautiously maneuvered the endotracheal tube into the trachea. It felt like time stopped until the tube was in place, after which the three of us (me, my teacher and my patient) all took a deep breath. Since then, over the last almost 37 years, I’ve intubated thousands of people in the U.S. and, as an international volunteer, eight countries.

So I thought it would be helpful at this time of year to discuss a step-by-step approach to intubation with the commonly used curved blade. Intubation, like a dance, is composed to steps that flow naturally from one to the next. The trick to a smooth intubation is to allow each step to blend seamlessly together. The description and illustrations below are excerpted from my book Anyone Can Intubate, where you can find more detail about this and many other topics. Read More …

Tips To Teaching Intubation

With fall comes the new crop of trainees eager to learn how to intubate. There will also be a new group of instructors teaching their first students to intubate. Teaching intubation skills on living patients, even those that have practiced on a manikin, can be challenging. It’s important to anticipate the common errors so we can safeguard our patients. Read More …

Anticipated Difficult Intubation: Should I Intubate The Patient Awake?

When facing any intubation, you must decide whether the intubation is safer to be performed asleep or awake. Many providers are uncomfortable with performing awake intubations and leave it as a last resort. There are a variety of reasons for this discomfort, including lack of experience and/or the fear that the patient will remember the intubation and think poorly of their care. However, awake intubation can be a safe and comfortable strategy in many clinical situations. This article discusses some of the criteria for deciding when to do an awake intubation. Read More …

Can Changing Our Anesthesia Practice Help Save The Polar Bears?

When we administer anesthesia, we pay a great deal of attention to the concentration of nitrous oxide and halogenated agents such as sevoflurane or desflurane that our patient receives. We know that too much or too little of these gases can harm our patients. We are often less compulsive about avoiding exposure to ourselves, or even our Operating Room colleagues to waste anesthetic gases. There are health risks to waste anesthesia gas exposure. In addition, nitrous oxide and our anesthetic inhalation gases are green house gases that contribute to climate change. Read More …

Avoiding Difficult Intubation Of The Easy Airway

We’ve all done it. It’s extremely easy to make any otherwise routine intubation difficult just by failing to properly position the patient or to use optimal technique. This article discusses the various ways you can adjust patient positioning and use your equipment to make intubation easy. Read More …

Intubating An Infant or Toddler

This article discussion some of the key points to intubating an infant or small child safely. Providers who infrequently care for infants and children less than two years of age are often rightfully anxious when faced with a sick child, especially if airway management is required. This is especially true if the child is less than one. Healthy respect is certainly indicated because airway complications are one of the leading causes of pediatric cardiac arrest.
Intubating an infant or small child is more of a challenge than an older child or adult both because of their anatomical differences as well as their physiologic predisposition for hypoxia. However, anyone who can intubate an adult can also intubate an infant or toddler safely if they take these differences in anatomy and physiology into account and are gentle and methodical in their approach.
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Positioning The Head For Intubation

This article discusses the different ways of placing the patient in the sniffing position and the advantages and disadvantages of each to improve first pass intubation success. Position of the head and neck for intubation can make intubation easy, or hard.
Many years ago our operating room administration Removed the towels we had been using to position the head for intubation. It may be an exaggeration to say that chaos ensued, but it felt like that.

For the next several days our anesthesia providers had trouble intubating. We likened it to an expert golfer who, when suddenly faced with a new set of golf clubs of slightly different weight and length, suddenly has to relearn the game. It made us realize that how we position the head in the sniffing position often sets us up for either an easy or for a more difficult intubation if you don’t realize what’s happening during the positioning. Read More …

Potential Tongue Ischemia with LMA Supreme

When we place anything in the mouth, be it an endotracheal tube, oral airway or LMA, we are typically extremely careful to protect the teeth. We take care to avoid cutting the lips with the teeth. But we often take the safety of the tongue for granted. I recently recognized a potential problem while using an LMA supreme that could have caused tongue ischemia if not recognized and corrected. Read More …

Preoxygenation Can More Than Double The Time To Hypoxia During Apnea

While breathing room air, oxygen saturation drops precipitously to below 90% within about a minute of the start of apnea in the average healthy adult. One of the most important safety measures we use in anesthesia is to preoxygenate our patients prior to induction of anesthesia and in preparation for intubation. This is especially true if we are planning a rapid sequence induction. Adequate preoxygenation can more than double the time to hypoxia during apnea, allowing more time for intubation to occur.

Preoxygenation increases the margin for safety. It treats any pre-existing hypoxemia in the critically ill patient. It also postpones the onset of hypoxia while the patient is apneic during the intubation attempt. This becomes especially important if the intubation attempt becomes difficult and prolonged.

Speed of onset of hypoxia with apnea depends on metabolic rate and on the actual amount of oxygen available in the patient’s functional residual capacity. To see how preoxygenation can effect this let’s review some physiology. Read More …

To Extubate, Or Not to Extubate, That Is The Question

Deciding when to extubate a patient safely can sometimes be a difficult decision. Removal of an endotracheal tube when you are not sure of the diagnosis is a risk not to be taken lightly. This case discusses assessing extubation criteria in the face of ambiguous respiratory symptoms. Read More …

What’s The Difference Between Oxygen Saturation And PaO2?

Many people confuse the important distinction between arterial partial pressure of oxygen (PaO2) and oxygen saturation (O2 sat). This is such a key concept that we all must take pains to ensure our staff understands how to use pulse oximetry to identify hypoxemia and hypoxia. 
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Ventilate and Intubate But Don’t Forget Communicate

Many years ago I was participating in a volunteer medical mission to Kenya when I learned a valuable lesson in communication which I often share with my students. It involves a failure to communicate on multiple levels that almost caused some major problems. Read More …

Don’t Be Afraid To Use Percutaneous Jet Ventilation In An Emergency

Needle cricothyrotomy or percutaneous transtracheal jet ventilation (PCJV) can truly be a life saving procedure. It is a fast, effective way of providing oxygen to a patient with an obstructed airway who does not respond to more conventional means of opening the airway. The “can’t intubate-can’t ventilate” scenario is a good example. PCJV is faster to perform than a surgical airway. It will buy you time to establish a more permanent airway such as an intubation or surgical airway if the patient is hypoxic.

However, PCJV carries some rare though potentially serious risks of worsening airway obstruction and cardiovascular collapse if the catheter is not correctly positioned within the trachea. Fear may prevent us from using it. In addition, most of us have never had to use PCJV in an emergency or even seen it used. Lack of familiarity with the equipment and simple lack of comfort may make us hesitate to try. We may not even think about it in the moment of crisis. So let’s look at some of the ways we can use PCJV safely. Read More …

Awake Intubation With The GlideScope

One of the most challenging scenarios to face is a tumor in the airway. Working closely with your surgeon is important. In these days of advanced technology, we often avoid awake intubate because of concern of causing the patient pain or distress. However, sometimes awake intubation is the safest way to proceed and if you are gentle and prepare the patient well, it can be comfortable as well. The Glidescope is another tool you can use for awake intubation. Read More …

Graduation Address School of Nurse Anesthesia

Below is the text of a graduation address I gave a few years ago at the Kaiser Permanente School of Nurse Anesthesia in Pasadena, California. I came across it the other day and I thought that it might be worth sharing with all of those of you who are recent graduates, as well as those of you who taught those graduates. I have always felt that we who have the honor of training the next generation must always strive to inspire the best that that generation has to offer. I hope you enjoy. Read More …

Avoiding Medication Errors

Humans are fallible and medication errors are very easy to permit’s easy to give a medication error if you aren’t constantly vigilant. Presented are a series of steps to perform every time a medication is administered that will help prevent medication error. Read More …