The Airway: Protection, Patency, and Difficulty

by ericaleeu
Last updated 3 years ago

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The Airway: Protection, Patency, and Difficulty

Assessing The Airway When assessing the airway, using a systematic approach is best. Once you determine the patient's pathology, there are a few other things to consider. First, is the patient protecting his/her airway? Patients who are awake, able to talk, cough, and handle their secretions are protecting their airway; patients with decreased LOC or who can't do these things probably aren't. Is the airway patent? Remember a protected airway is not the same as a patent airway. Foreign bodies, trauma, burns, angioedema, infection, and malignancy can cause obstruction and loss of patency. Lastly, if the airway is unprotected and/or patency is threatened, will it be difficult to establish a secure airway? The four dimensions of difficulty are assessed to determine the presence of factors that can make establishing a secure airway difficult. Watch or listen to learn more (if you choose to watch you only need to watch the first video segment).

1) Is the patient protecting his/her own airway?2) Is there a condition that threatens airway patency?3) Will it be difficult to secure this patient's airway?


Ask Yourself...

The Airway: Protection, Patency, and Difficulty


Is the patient ...Unconscious?Unable to speak, cough, and/or handle secretions?Becoming fatigued?Deteriorating or expected to?

Look for The S'sStridor SnoringSee-Saw Chest MovementSilent ChestSecretions Singe/Sputum (burns)Smash (loose teeth bleeding)StabSwelling


The Four Dimensions of Difficulty



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