CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, is a treatment that uses mild air pressure to keep the airways open. CPAP typically is used by people who have breathing problems.
The importance of a patent airway cannot be overemphasized. It can mean poor blood oxygenation and hence tissue hypoxia and the risk of complications. This is especially important in a an unconscious patient under anesthesia or just coming out of anesthesia as well as those in coma due to various reasons. In these situations, the risk of the tongue falling back and obstructing the airway is very high. The use of an airway is a simple yet very efficient way of preventing this from happening.
Other benefits of using an airway in patients at risk of airway obstruction include:
There are many types of airways. There are also different sizes for different ages as well as different mouth anatomies. Some of these airways are color coded for different sizes. All types of airways have a bite guard which is a hard part that makes it impossible for patients to clench their teeth against the airway or other medical equipment in the mouth.
Airways can either be:
This is one of the commonest types. They come in different sizes starting from size 0 for an infant to size 5 for a big adult. These airways can also be described in terms of millimeters (mm).The sizes in mm and their color code matches are shown below:
These have slotted sides to enable easier suction catheter insertion. Depending on the manufacturer, they can be plain or colored. Many manufacturers of this type of airway start with a size 40 mm for neonates to a size 110mm for very big adults.
These serve the same purpose as the oropharyngeal airways. The only difference is that they are inserted through the nose.
Airways should only be used in unconscious patients with no gag reflex.