Identifying Airway Compromise

Conscious patients

Conscious patients with airway compromise will typically sit upright and look distressed. Make sure to examine for:

  • Swollen tongue (angioedema or anaphylaxis)
  • Sooty sputum (following a thermal injury)
  • Neck haematomas (following blunt or penetrating trauma)
  • Rashes (anaphylaxis or poisoning)
  • Laboured breathing and wheeze (asthma)
  • Facial fractures
  • Crepitus and surgical emphysema (laryngeal injury)

Unconscious patients

In unconscious patients examine for:

  • Snoring or added airway noises (indicative of partial airway obstruction)
  • Abnormal chest and abdominal wall movement (suggestive of airway obstruction)
  • Lack of fogging of the oxygen mask
Fig 1: Lack of fogging of the oxygen face mask during normal inspiration Fig 2: Fogging of the oxygen face mask due to normal expiration
Post a comment

Leave a Comment