To minimize risk of spinal cord injury, airway management providers must understand the anatomic and functional relationship between the airway, cervical column, and spinal cord. Patients with known or suspected cervical spine injury may require emergent intubation for airway protection and ventilatory support or elective intubation for surgery with or without rigid neck stabilization (i.e., halo). To provide safe and efficient care in these patients, practitioners must identify high-risk patients, be comfortable with available methods of airway adjuncts, and know how airway maneuvers, neck stabilization, and positioning affect the cervical spine. This review discusses the risks and benefits of various airway management strategies as well as specific concerns that affect patients with known or suspected cervical spine injury.
Keywords: Anesthesia; intubation; spinal cord injury; trauma.