What is the role of airway management in the ED treatment of spinal cord injury (SCI)?

Updated: Nov 01, 2018
  • Author: Lawrence S Chin, MD, FACS; Chief Editor: Brian H Kopell, MD  more...
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Answer

Airway management in the setting of spinal cord injury, with or without a cervical spine injury, is complex and difficult. The cervical spine must be maintained in neutral alignment at all times. Clearing of oral secretions and/or debris is essential to maintain airway patency and to prevent aspiration. The modified jaw thrust and insertion of an oral airway may be all that is required to maintain an airway in some cases. However, intubation may be required in others. Failure to intubate emergently when indicated because of concerns regarding the instability of the patient's cervical spine is a potential pitfall.


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