Airway challenges in critical care

Anaesthesia. 2011 Dec;66 Suppl 2:81-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2044.2011.06937.x.


Airway management in the intensive care unit is more problematic than during anaesthesia. In general, critically ill patients have less physiological reserve and complications are more common, both during the initial airway intervention (which includes risks associated with induction of anaesthesia), and later once the airway has been secured. Despite these known risks, those managing the airway of a critically ill patient, particularly out of hours, may be relatively inexperienced. Solutions to these challenging airway problems include: recognition of those patients with a potential airway problem; implementation of a plan to deal with their airway; immediate availability of a difficult airway trolley; use of capnography for every airway intervention and continuously in all ventilator-dependent patients; and appropriate training of all intensive care unit staff including use of simulation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Airway Extubation
  • Airway Management / instrumentation
  • Airway Management / methods*
  • Airway Management / statistics & numerical data
  • Algorithms
  • Anesthesia
  • Anesthesiology / education
  • Capnography
  • Clinical Competence
  • Cricoid Cartilage / surgery
  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Critical Illness
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Intubation, Intratracheal
  • Thyroidectomy
  • Tracheostomy
  • United Kingdom