Awake intubation is usually performed electively in the presence of a difficult airway. A detailed airway examination is time-consuming and often not feasible in an emergency. A simple 1-2-3 rule for airway examination allows one to identify potential airway difficulty within a minute. A more detailed airway examination can give a better idea about the exact nature of difficulty and the course of action to be taken to overcome it. When faced with an anticipated difficult airway, the anaesthesiologist needs to consider securing the airway in an awake state without the use of anaesthetic agents or muscle relaxants. As this can be highly discomforting to the patient, time and effort must be spent to prepare such patients both psychologically and pharmacologically for awake intubation. Psychological preparation is best initiated by an anaesthesiologist who explains the procedure in simple language. Sedative medications can be titrated to achieve patient comfort without compromising airway patency. Additional pharmacological preparation includes anaesthetising the airway through topical application of local anaesthetics and appropriate nerve blocks. When faced with a difficult airway, one should call for the difficult airway cart as well as for help from colleagues who have interest and expertise in airway management. Preoxygenation and monitoring during awake intubation is important. Anxious patients with a difficult airway may need to be intubated under general anaesthesia without muscle relaxants. Proper psychological and pharmacological preparation of the patient by an empathetic anaesthesiologist can go a long way in making awake intubation acceptable for all concerned.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine