Extubation of the Difficult Airway

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Managing the airway in the intensive care unit (ICU) is complicated by a wide array of physiologic factors. Difficult airway may be a consequence of patient's anatomy or airway edema developed during the ICU stay and mechanical ventilation. The incidence of failed airways and of cardiac arrest related to airway instrumentation in the ICU is much higher than that of elective intubations performed in the operating room. In this article, we will provide a framework for identifying a difficult airway, criteria for safe extubation, as well as review the devices that are available for airway management in the ICU. Proficiency in identifying a potentially difficult airway and thorough familiarity with strategies and techniques of securing the airway are necessary for safe practice of critical care medicine.

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