Unanticipated Difficult Endotracheal Intubations in Patients with Cervical Spine Instrumentation

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We present two cases of unanticipated difficult airway in patients requiring reoperation after cervical spine instrumentation. In both cases, the upper airway examination was normal, and fiberoptic-guided intubation proceeded with the patient sedated and breathing spontaneously. Cord visualization was difficult, but the scope was eventually advanced into the trachea and the endotracheal tube placed safely. Later review of radiographs showed the previously unrecognized protrusion of cervical hardware into the meso- and hypopharynx. We recommend that anesthesiologists review recent radiographic studies for potential airway compromise before approaching the airway of patients presenting for revision of cervical instrumentation.

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