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Emergency tracheostomy for failed intubation due to glottic stenosis
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  • Published on:
    Consistent messaging in airway emergencies
    • Angela L Gardner, Clinical Fellow in Intensive Care Medicine Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust
    • Other Contributors:
      • Nick Calder, ENT Consultant and Clinical Lead
      • Brendan A McGrath, Consultant in Anaesthesia & Intensive Care Medicine

    We thank Dr Yap and colleagues for describing clearly the successful management of an unexpectedly challenging airway.1 We agree that the index case highlights the need for vigilance in all patients requiring airway management, particularly where an atypical presentation of a respiratory condition may indicate occult airway pathology.2 However, the case raises a number of important issues for airway assessment, intubation-related laryngeal pathology and the management of ‘can’t intubate, can’t ventilate’ scenarios which warrant further discussion, considered below.

    Airway assessment can be encapsulated by the quote, “Hindsight is a wonderful thing but foresight is better, especially when it comes to saving life,” attributed the 19th Century English poet William Blake. Whilst subtle, there were a number of clues in the described case report that could, and perhaps should, have prompted a more thorough evaluation of the airway. It is surprising that the patient did not report their extreme prematurity at birth, or the fact that they spent the first year of their life in hospital. This would have almost certainly have involved prolonged ventilation and sequelae into childhood. Respiratory and airway complications are well recognised in premature neonates and may coexist.3 The authors highlight the Difficult Airway Society’s airway algorithms and the fact that any clinician managing an airway should prepare for failure.4-6 This should involve an examination of the front...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.