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Airway: Obstruction, patency, assessment, intervention, management

Airway: Obstruction, patency, assessment, intervention, management

Airway obstruction, patency, assessment, intervention, and management are all important aspects of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).


Airway obstruction is a blockage in the airway that prevents air from entering the lungs. This can be caused by foreign objects such as food or vomit or by swelling of the throat due to an allergic reaction or infection.

Airway patency refers to the ability of the airway to remain open and allow for adequate airflow. A patent airway is essential for proper oxygenation and ventilation of the lungs.


Assessment: This involves evaluating the airway to determine if any obstruction or other problem needs to be addressed. Assessment can be performed using various techniques, such as listening to the person's breathing, looking at the person's chest and neck movements, or using specialized equipment to measure the person's oxygen levels. By properly assessing and managing the airway, those with BLS or CPR certification can help ensure that the patient is receiving the oxygen they need to survive.

The first step in assessing an airway obstruction is to look for signs and symptoms such as difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, or stridor. If these signs are present, it is important to assess the patient’s level of consciousness and check for any obstructions in their mouth or throat. If an obstruction is found, it must be removed before any other interventions can occur.


Intervention: If an obstruction or other problem is identified during the assessment, intervention may be necessary to restore patency and ensure the person's airway remains open and clear. This can involve various techniques, such as removing a foreign object from the airway, performing CPR, or using specialized equipment to open the airway. In some cases, a suction device may need to be used to remove secretions from the airways.

If these interventions do not improve a patient’s breathing, more advanced interventions maybe considered, such as intubation or tracheostomy placement. Intubation involves inserting a tube into the trachea, allowing direct oxygen delivery into the lungs while bypassing any obstructions in the upper airways.

Tracheostomy involves making an incision in the neck and inserting a tube directly into the trachea, providing access for suctioning secretions and administering medications directly into the lungs if needed.

Management: This refers to the overall approach to maintaining and ensuring the patency of the airway. This can include ongoing monitoring and assessment and providing necessary interventions to prevent or treat any problems that arise. Proper airway management is essential for ensuring the person's ability to breathe and receive adequate oxygen.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is back blow recommended for conscious infants rather than chest compression?

Back blows create a strong vibration and pressure in the airway, which is often enough to dislodge the blockage. It is essential to remember never to touch or spank your child who is choking on their back when they start coughing. Your actions could cause the object to move and enter the airway further. On the other hand, chest compression is only necessary if the infant loses consciousness while you are trying to relieve choking.

What should I do if the obstruction through the infant's mouth is visible?

If you can see the blockage in the infant's mouth, reach in with your finger and take it out. Avoid forcing it further into the airway. Perform the CPR steps if the infant loses consciousness and the object is still trapped.

How can CPR help an infant suffering from complete airway blockage?

CPR is a lifesaving procedure that can save the baby's life if the infant becomes unconscious due to complete airway obstruction. Compressing the infant's chest can expel a foreign object from the airway.


  • American Heart Association (2020). Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). Retrieved from
  • National Institutes of Health (2020). Airway Obstruction: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Options . Retrieved from
  • Mayo Clinic Staff (2019). Airway Obstruction: Symptoms & Causes . Retrieved from