The difficult airway

Int Anesthesiol Clin. Summer 2000;38(3):47-63. doi: 10.1097/00004311-200007000-00005.


The difficult airway, although rare, still occurs with a frequency sufficient to require that all personnel associated with airway management be familiar with methods to use when confronted with a challenging airway. Methods of airway assessment are helpful but lack adequate sensitivity and specificity. The most effective means of anticipating a difficult airway lies in an integrated approach utilizing the history, physical exam, and the patient's medical record. The most effective manner of dealing with a difficult airway involves proper anticipation, patient preparation, and the development of practical, well thought out contingency plans. Most importantly, extubation must only occur after a plan has been designed to ensure that the patient may be adequately supported in the event of a premature extubation. Certain injuries to the airway and esophagus are more common in patients in whom intubation was difficult. Such patients should be closely watched and informed about the signs and symptoms of tracheal and esophageal injury.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Child
  • Forecasting
  • High-Frequency Jet Ventilation
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / adverse effects
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / instrumentation
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / methods*
  • Laryngeal Masks
  • Laryngoscopy
  • Masks
  • Pulmonary Ventilation / physiology
  • Respiration*
  • Risk Factors