Emergency Front of Neck Airway: Overcoming the Challenges
- What is the nature of the major airway complications that lead to serious harm or death?
- What can we learn from them, in order to reduce their frequency and improve outcomes?
Delay in performing eFONA when facemask ventilation, supraglottic airway and tracheal intubation had failed.
Lack of preparation and planning for failure
This is why guidelines emphasise the importance of approaching every intervention with an airway strategy, a structured and organised plan that includes a plan for failure.
Lack of training in skills and drillsIn NAP4, poor training and education was one of the commonest contributory causes to serious airway events. Clinicians must train and maintain skills for rare but life-threatening emergencies. We are hardly ever faced with these events on our own which is why we should train with our multi-disciplinary team. Decision-making, planning, preparation, and technical proficiency all improve with practice. Regular training in both technical and non-technical elements helps reinforce and retain skills which we don’t use routinely. In a crisis, cognitive overload makes it hard to make decisions; we are more likely to succeed if we follow a simple plan which we have rehearsed. Regular refresher training helps prevent skill fade.
Lack of shared understanding of guidelines and cognitive aidsEarlier in this week, we looked at the role of guidelines, algorithms and cognitive aids in airway management. The DAS Guidelines for unanticipated difficult intubation is a teaching and learning tool and the Vortex Approach is a simple cognitive aid designed to be used in a crisis, and also in training for crisis, team work and human factors are improved if everyone shares the same plan.
StressWhen a CICO situation arises, hypoxia develops rapidly, and will ultimately lead to cardiac arrest and death. As you can imagine, this is a very stressful situation and it may be hard to make the decision to perform eFONA. When we are stressed it is difficult to perform even simple tasks, or to communicate effectively, this is called cognitive overload. Decision making, motor skills and peripheral vision decline, task fixation is common. Team based training to learn technical skills, to recognise an impending failure, and to feel able to speak up and declare a crisis, improve our ability to manage stressful situations.
EquipmentKnowing where to find the equipment we need is vital in a time critical emergency. The location of eFONA kit should be standardised in every area where airway management is performed and it should be clearly signposted. eFONA packs, containing essential equipment and prompt cards are helpful. The DAS 2015 Guidelines recommend that all anaesthetists learn a surgical cricothyroidotomy technique but some organisations choose a cannula technique as their initial approach. It’s important that local skills training and equipment reflects the preferred technique.
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UCL (University College London) online course,
- Peterson GN, Domino KB, Caplan RA, Posner KL, Lee LA, Cheney FW. Management of the Difficult Airway: A Closed Claims Analysis. Anesthesiology 2005;103(1):33-39.
- Nørskov AK, Rosenstock CV, Wetterslev J, Astrup G, Afshari A, Lundstrøm LH. Diagnostic accuracy of anaesthesiologists’ prediction of difficult airway management in daily clinical practice: a cohort study of 188 064 patients registered in the Danish Anaesthesia Database. Anaesthesia 2015;70:272–81. 10.1111/anae.12955..
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