Basic Science and Pathophysiology

An individual’s airway may be rendered ‘difficult’ by:

  • Poor Preparation

    Poor preparation may include:

    • Inadequate positioning
    • Poor availability of equipment
    • Lack of suitable personnel
    • Inadequate training
  • Normal anatomical and physiological variation

    Normal anatomical and physiological variation may include:

    • Facial hair
    • Shape of jaw
    • Abnormal teeth or lack of teeth
    • Limited mouth opening
    • Size of tongue
    • Length and mobility of neck
    • Position of larynx
    • Pregnancy
  • Pathological anatomical variation

    Pathological anatomical variation may include:

    • Soft tissue swelling as a result of burns, allergy/angio-oedema, infection and haematoma
    • Maxillofacial trauma
    • Cervical spine deformity or immobility, for example ankylosing spondylitis
    • Obesity
    • Abdominal distension
  • Neck immobilisation

    Neck immobilisation: as in trauma, where you are unable to position the patient with head extended and neck flexed. This makes visualisation of the vocal cords harder [5].

  • Foreign body obstruction
 An airway may be rendered difficult by a host of factors both pathological and anatomical.
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