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JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

[Management of the difficult airway : Overview of the current guidelines]

J C Schäuble, T Heidegger
Der Anaesthesist 2018, 67 (10): 725-737
30291405
Several national airway task forces have recently updated their recommendations for the management of the difficult airway in adults. Routinely responding to airway difficulties with an algorithm-based strategy is consistently supported. The focus is increasingly not on tools and devices but more on good planning, preparation and communication. In the case of anticipated airway difficulties the airway should be secured when the patient is awake with maintenance of spontaneous ventilation. Unaltered a flexible bronchoscopic intubation technique is advised as a standard of care in such patients. The importance of maintenance of oxygenation is emphasized. Face mask ventilation and the use of supraglottic devices are recommended if unexpected airway difficulties occur. Face mask ventilation may be facilitated and optimised by early administration of neuromuscular blocking agents. If required, in not fastened patients threatened by acute hypoxia, carefully applied and pressure-controlled ventilation may ensure sufficient oxygenation until the airway is secured. Apnoeic oxygen techniques are recommended in high-risk patients and to relieve the time pressure of falling oxygen saturation during decision-making processes. The early use of video laryngoscopy is advised for endotracheal intubation in the case of failed direct laryngoscopy or if intubation is expected to be difficult. For the coverage of cannot intubate-cannot oxygenate scenarios, second generation supraglottic devices and invasive airway access are advocated. The discussion regarding the optimal technique for emergency invasive airway access is still in progress. In the case of uncontrollable respiratory deterioration and progressive hypoxia, the algorithm must be consistently executed and without delay due to ineffective activities (straightforward strategy). Although there is no evidence to support the selection of a particular approach, the importance and the need for a defined airway concept/algorithm in any anesthesia department is fostered. Simplicity and clarity are essential for recall under stressful and time-sensitive conditions. The algorithm should be adapted to local conditions and preferences and devices should be limited to a definite number. The acquisition and maintenance of expertise by education and training is demanded.

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