Airway Management in Adults after Cervical Spine Trauma

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Cervical spinal injury occurs in 2% of victims of blunt trauma; the incidence is increased if the Glasgow Coma Scale score is less than 8 or if there is a focal neurologic deficit. Immobilization of the spine after trauma is advocated as a standard of care. A three-view x-ray series supplemented with computed tomography imaging is an effective imaging strategy to rule out cervical spinal injury. Secondary neurologic injury occurs in 2–10% of patients after cervical spinal injury; it seems to be an inevitable consequence of the primary injury in a subpopulation of patients. All airway interventions cause spinal movement; immobilization may have a modest effect in limiting spinal movement during airway maneuvers. Many anesthesiologists state a preference for the fiberoptic bronchoscope to facilitate airway management, although there is considerable, favorable experience with the direct laryngoscope in cervical spinal injury patients. There are no outcome data that would support a recommendation for a particular practice option for airway management; a number of options seem appropriate and acceptable.

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