Surgical Care at the District Hospital
Part 1 2 3 4 5 6 Primary Trauma Care Manual
ABCDE of trauma
Airway management
Airway management techniques
Ventilation (breathing) management
Circulatory management
Circulatory resuscitation measures
Secondary surgery
Chest trauma
Abdominal trauma
Head trauma
Spinal trauma
Neurological trauma
Limb trauma
Special trauma cases
Transport of critically ill patients
Trauma response
Activation plan for trauma team
Primary Trauma Care Manual | Airway management


The first priority is establishment or maintenance of airway patency.

1 Talk to the patient
A patient who can speak clearly must have a clear airway. Airway obstruction by the tongue in the unconscious patient is often a problem. The unconscious patient may require assistance with airway and/or ventilation. If you suspect a head, neck or chest injury, protect the cervical spine during endotracheal intubation.
2 Give oxygen
Give oxygen, if available, via self-inflating bag or mask.
3 Assess the airway
Signs of airway obstruction include:
Snoring or gurgling
Stridor or abnormal breath sounds
Agitation (hypoxia)
Using the accessory muscles of ventilation/paradoxical chest movements

Be alert for foreign bodies. Intravenous sedation is absolutely contraindicated
in this situation.
4 Consider the need for advanced airway management
Indications for advanced airway management techniques include:
Persisting airway obstruction
Penetrating neck trauma with haematoma (expanding)
Penetrating neck trauma with haematoma (expanding)
  Severe head injury
  Chest trauma
  Maxillofacial injury.

Airway obstruction requires urgent treatment.

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