If you have heard the term ‘patent airway’, it is used by healthcare professionals in the medical field as well as in first aid scenarios. A patent airway is vital to the health and safety of each individual regardless of the illnesses or injuries sustained. An individual who has a patent airway will not always guarantee survival but can drastically increase the survival rate. Take note that if the airway is compromised, it will almost result to a bad outcome.
What is a patent airway?
A patent airway is basically clear and open in which the individual is able to inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. With a patent airway, it does not mean that the individual does not have breathing difficulty. It simply means that if needed, oxygen can be delivered without utilizing surgical reconstruction of the airway. An individual who is alert and talking has a patent airway, thus he/she can utilize a nasal cannula, nebulizer or a face mask to help with the breathing.
What happens if the airway is compromised?
If the airway is compromised, the individual might have sustained neck trauma, maxillofacial trauma or trauma directly to the windpipe. An individual who has a compromised airway can turn blue, become agitated and the chest muscles can retract as he/she gasps for air.
An individual who has a compromised airway can be assisted by clearing the airway if there are foreign objects present and performing the jaw thrust maneuver as well as changing position while maintaining spinal stabilization.
In some cases in which the injury is considered severe, it would require surgical procedures to be performed in order to create a patent airway. In this case, the surgical procedure called as cricothyroidotomy is carried out. This procedure involves the creation of an incision in the throat that goes into the cricothyroid membrane and a tube is inserted so that oxygen is given directly. Take note that this procedure can cause damage to the cricoid cartilage and must not be performed on children below 12 years old.
How to open up the airways
It is important to open up the airways, especially among individuals who suffer from asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In order to have a patent airway, the air can enter and exit the lungs easily as well as prevent fatigue.
- The individual can perform breathing retaining exercise in order to release the old air from the lungs and bring in fresh air. The diaphragm is a muscle, thus exercising it will help the airway stay open longer when breathing out.
- Instruct the individual to sit in a chair and stand with his/her back and knees slight bent. He/she must place one hand on the chest and one on the abdomen.
- The individual must breathe through the nose as the abdominal muscles are relaxed. The diaphragm will contract while the abdomen expands. Make sure that the chest barely moves. This is known as diaphragmatic breathing.
- The lips must be pursed together while exhaling. This will create pressure on the airways in order to keep them open. Slowly exhale taking twice as long as inhaling.