This episode I reflect upon a really tough airway case.
I have asked a number of airway gurus from the FOAMed community to comment on the logistics and plan to manage this case. Thanks to Tim Leeuwenburg, Rich Levitan, Roger Harris and Dr Richard Lewis of their contributions.
50 year old woman with a complicated medical history.
life long smoker & drinker
had large goitre resected 10 years ago with large anterior neck dissection
diagnosed with SCC of base tongue 3 years ago
large resection / reconstruction including mandibular graft
Radiation therapy to the anterior neck with lots of fixed scarring to neck.
Previous intubation (prior to XRT) was grade 3 and required a bougie for anterior larynx / hyper-angulated airway
Now quite cachexic but has no palliative intention
Presents to a remote ED (2000km from the next specialist ENT / Anaesthesia /ICU service.
Developed oral bleeding from fungating lesion on the posterior lateral tongue.
Has been contiuously bleeding for an hour, tachy 130, normal BP, has a bag of blood in hand ~ 1000 ml.
Vomited a few times – altered blood / coffee grounds
On examination there is a fungating lesion that we cannot see past ie. You can see the front of the lesion covered in an oozing clot but it extends past the possible field of view around the back of the tongue.
The jaw is microagnathic / graft with a lot of scar tissue.
The anterior larynx is best described as a block of fixed tissue with woody texture. It is impossible to clinically feel the cricothyroid / thyroid cartilage or membrane reliably
Bloods – Hb is now 79 (was 110 on recent check). Platelets 150
Normal renal function
Coags are normal
LFTs – raised GGT and ALT – chronic
No imaging / CT available
This patient is exsanguinating – we need to control the bleeding. IV TXA, topical adrenaline and TXA gauze help control external bleeding, but she still seems to be gagging and swallowing a lot of blood, vomiting intermittently coffee grounds.
We have blood to transfuse ready to go…
To do this properly we need to control the airway / get a tube in place.
How should we do this…?
AFOI – is going to be tricky
RSI – also requires we accept the risk of going to surgical airway…. Which may be tricky
Needs to go to the tertiary hospital on a plane… this is unlikely to occur without a secured airway.
OK doc – the surgeon is scrubbed and ready to get in there… what the plan?
What do you do if AFOI proves to be impossible / failed?
Have a listen to hear how it played out and what the airway experts think!
I am a GP working in Broome, NW of Western Australia. I work as a hospital DMO (District Med Officer) doing Emergency, Anaesthestics, some Obstetrics and a lot of miscellaneous primary care. Also on the web as @broomedocs | + Casey Parker | Contact