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Emergency airway puncture

Emergency airway puncture is the placement of a hollow needle through the throat into the airway. It is done to treat life-threatening choking.

Emergency airway puncture is done in an emergency situation, when someone is choking and all other efforts to assist with breathing have failed.

  • A hollow needle or tube can be inserted into the throat, just below the Adam's apple (cricoid cartilage), into the airway.
  • In a hospital, a small cut in the skin is made before inserting the needle.

Alternative Names

Needle cricothyrotomy

Why the Procedure Is Performed

A cricothyrotomy is an emergency procedure to relieve an airway obstruction until surgery can be done to place a breathing tube (tracheostomy).

Risks

Risks for this procedure include:

  • Injury to the voice box (larynx), thyroid gland, or esophagus

Risks for any surgery are:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well the person does depends on the cause of the airway blockage and how quickly the person receives proper breathing support.

See: Tracheostomy

References

Hebert RB, Bose S, Mace SE. Cricothyrotomy and transtracheal jet ventilation. In: Roberts JR, Hedges JR, eds. Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 6.

Thomas SH, Brown DFM. Foreign bodies. In: Marx J, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 57.

Updated: 12/12/2013

Eric Perez, MD, St. Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital Center, NY, NY, and Pegasus Emergency Group, Hunterdon Medical Centers, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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