Clinical Communications: Adult| Volume 57, ISSUE 3, P383-386, September 2019

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Successful Intubation of a Difficult Airway Using a Yankauer Suction Catheter



      Endotracheal intubation (ETI) is used to effectively manage a patient’s airway. Failure of ETI may lead to ineffective ventilation or oxygenation, potentially causing organ damage and eventually death. Approximately 8% of ETIs are difficult and 1% are unsuccessful. Tools and techniques to successfully obtain airway access are essential.

      Case Report

      A patient with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease presented to the emergency department in acute respiratory distress. Noninvasive positive pressure ventilation was unsuccessful in improving the patient’s tidal volume and work of breathing. The patient was unable to be intubated by conventional techniques because of a mass obstructing the view of her vocal cords. A cricothyrotomy was considered, but not initially performed because of her distorted anatomy. After multiple intubation attempts from several different physicians, the patient was successfully intubated with the aid of a suction Yankauer, which was used to move the mass peripherally and further served as a conduit through which a bougie was passed.

      Why Should an Emergency Physician Be Aware of This?

      The risk for complications rises with each intubation attempt. While there are a variety of tools and aids that can be used to assist in difficult intubations, rapid airway access is essential, and common tools do not always work. We hope that knowledge of this novel, yet simple and effective technique will help physicians successfully intubate patients with distorted oropharyngeal anatomy who cannot be intubated using conventional methods.


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