Anticipated Difficult Intubation: Should I Intubate The Patient Awake?

When I was training, awake intubation for anticipated difficult airway was routine. Blind nasal intubation and fiberoptic intubation were common events. The advent of video laryngospcopy  has made the need for awake intubation much less common. Instruments like the Glidescope and the McGrath video laryngoscope have revolutionized intubation, and made the difficult intubation scenario fortunately much more uncommon.

However, awake intubation with the patient breathing spontaneously is still sometimes optimal for patient safety.  Awake intubation can be performed using standard laryngoscopy techniques, but it is more commonly done using specialty intubation techniques such as blind nasal or fiberoptic intubation.

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 and all providers should develop expertise with one or more techniques of choice — before an emergency forces them to use one.

This article will discuss how to decide when to do an awake intubation. Future articles will discuss how to do them. Continue reading

Airway Obstruction Can Occur After Thyroglossal Duct Excision

The longer I do anesthesia, the more I realize that not knowing the details about the surgeries that I see every day can cause unexpected problems with the anesthesia. Airway obstruction can occur following uneventful thyroglossal duct excision because of removal of the hyoid bone. This article describes reasons why the anatomical change can cause obstruction and discusses a case where such airway obstruction needed treatment in the immediate postoperative period. Continue reading

Getting A Good Mask Seal When Ventilating a Patient

Use of a bag-valve-mask device is one of the most important skills you can master in patient care. Many of my students have a hard time ventilating with a bag-valve-mask device because they fail to get a good seal with the mask. So let’s discuss how to place the mask step-by-step. Continue reading