Emergency airway puncture

Definition

Emergency airway puncture is the placement of a hollow needle through the throat into the airway. It is done to treat life-threatening choking.

Alternative Names

Needle cricothyrotomy

Description

Emergency airway puncture is done in an emergency situation, when someone is choking and all other efforts to assist with breathing have failed.

  • A hollow needle or tube can be inserted into the throat, just below the Adam's apple (cricoid cartilage), into the airway.
  • In a hospital, a small cut in the skin is made before inserting the needle.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

A cricothyrotomy is an emergency procedure to relieve an airway obstruction until surgery can be done to place a breathing tube (tracheostomy).

Risks

Risks for this procedure include:

  • Injury to the voice box (larynx), thyroid gland, or esophagus

Risks for any surgery are:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well the person does depends on the cause of the airway blockage and how quickly the person receives proper breathing support.

See: Tracheostomy

Figures

Emergency airway punctureCricoid cartilageEmergency airway puncture - series

References

Hebert RB, Bose S, Mace SE. Cricothyrotomy and transtracheal jet ventilation. In: Roberts JR, Hedges JR, eds. Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 6.

Thomas SH, Brown DFM. Foreign bodies. In: Marx J, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009: chap 57.

Revision

Last reviewed 7/16/2011 by Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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