High-Risk Airway Management in the Emergency Department. Part I: Diseases and Approaches

Skyler Lentz, Alexandra Grossman, Alex Koyfman, Brit Long

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Successful airway management is critical to the practice of emergency medicine. Emergency physicians must be ready to optimize and prepare for airway management in critically ill patients with a wide range of physiologic challenges. Challenges in airway management commonly encountered in the emergency department are discussed using a pearl and pitfall discussion in this first part of a 2-part series. Objective: This narrative review presents an evidence-based approach to airway and patient management during endotracheal intubation in challenging cases that are commonly encountered in the emergency department. Discussion: Adverse events during emergent airway management are common, with postintubation cardiac arrest reported in as many as 1 in 25 intubations. Many of these adverse events can be avoided with the proper identification and understanding of the underlying physiology, preparation, and postintubation management. Patients with high-risk features including severe metabolic acidosis; shock and hypotension; obstructive lung disease; pulmonary hypertension, right ventricle failure, and pulmonary embolism; and severe hypoxemia must be managed with airway expertise. Conclusions: This narrative review discusses the pearls and pitfalls of commonly encountered physiologic high-risk intubations with a focus on the emergency clinician.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)84-95
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • airway
  • hypotension
  • hypoxemia
  • metabolic acidosis
  • obstructive lung disease
  • postintubation cardiac arrest
  • pulmonary embolism
  • pulmonary hypertension
  • shock

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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