Cricoid Pressure Controversies: Narrative Review

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Since cricoid pressure was introduced into clinical practice, controversial issues have arisen, including necessity, effectiveness in preventing aspiration, quantifying the cricoid force, and its reliability in certain clinical entities and in the presence of gastric tubes. Cricoid pressure–associated complications have also been alleged, such as airway obstruction leading to interference with manual ventilation, laryngeal visualization, tracheal intubation, placement of supraglottic devices, and relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter. This review synthesizes available information to identify, address, and attempt to resolve the controversies related to cricoid pressure. The effective use of cricoid pressure requires that the applied force is sufficient to occlude the esophageal entrance while avoiding airway-related complications. Most of these complications are caused by excessive or inadequate force or by misapplication of cricoid pressure. Because a simple-to-use and reliable cricoid pressure device is not commercially available, regular training of personnel, using technology-enhanced cricoid pressure simulation, is required. The current status of cricoid pressure and objectives for future cricoid pressure–related research are also discussed.

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