Awake fibrecapnic intubation in head and neck cancer patients with difficult airways: new findings and refinements to the technique*

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Abstract

Summary

Recently, we described an adaptation of awake fibreoptic intubation that we call awake fibrecapnic intubation. The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy and risk of complications with this novel technique in a consecutive case series of head and neck cancer patients known to have difficult airways. We prospectively studied 40 consecutive intubations in head and neck cancer patients prior to a diagnostic or surgical procedure. Following topical anaesthesia, a flexible bronchoscope was introduced into the pharynx; spontaneous respiration was maintained in all patients. A special suction catheter was advanced into the airway through the suction channel of the bronchoscope for carbon dioxide measurements. When four capnograms were obtained, the bronchoscope was railroaded over the catheter and a tracheal tube was placed. All adverse events and complications were recorded. There were no complications associated with the technique. The median (range) time to intubation was 3 min (1.5–15 min). All patients were intubated successfully, 39 (98%) of them using awake fibrecapnic intubation. There was one patient with severe tumour bleeding and acute airway obstruction caused by advancement of the tube over the bronchoscope. This was not considered to be a complication of the fibrecapnic technique. Awake fibrecapnic intubation is a safe and valuable technique in head and neck cancer patients with a difficult airway.

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