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Airway Management Errors & Intubation Negligence

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What are Airway  Management Techniques?

Airway management is a crucial aspect of both emergent and non-emergent medical care and involves any strategy that is used to maintain a patient’s airway so that he or she has continued access to oxygen.

Advanced airway management techniques such as intubation and extubation should only be performed by highly trained professionals with readily available special equipment. Intubation is the insertion of a breathing tube into the throat, nasal cavities, or esophagus to ensure the passage of oxygen to a patient’s lungs. Extubation is simply the reverse process whereby the breathing tube is removed (either permanently because it is no longer needed or to be replaced with a new tube in the case of chronic needs for assistance breathing).

Once an airway is obstructed and oxygen becomes unavailable, time is of the essence. Permanent brain damage can occur within minutes of the time a patient is without oxygen. For this reason, medical professionals and anesthesiologists are specially trained on airway management procedures such as intubation, extubation, and in severe or chronic cases, surgical methods such as Tracheostomy.

What is a Tracheostomy?

For infants, children, adolescents, or adults that need long-term or permanent airway management, a Tracheostomy is a common solution. Tracheostomy is a procedure whereby an opening is surgically created in a patient’s trachea/windpipe through the neck. This opening is called a stoma. A Tracheostomy tube is inserted. Tracheostomy tubes require special management so the patient can get enough oxygen.

Despite intensive training procedures in airway management, anesthesiologists, paramedics, physicians, and other medical staff can still make mistakes. Unfortunately, mistakes in advanced airway management techniques can be devastating, if not fatal, for a patient.

Common Mistakes Made in Tracheostomy & Tracheostomy Management

Medical malpractice can result when a doctor or other healthcare professional involved in placing or maintaining a patient’s Tracheostomy fails to follow procedural guidelines. The most common mistakes made include but are not limited to the following:

  • Damage to the esophagus upon placement
  • Damage to the laryngeal nerve upon placement that will cause vocal cord problems
  • Improper tube blockage prevention techniques (lack of suctioning, improperly sized tube, lack of air humidification)
  • Delay in treatment of infection in trachea and tube
  • Decannulation or accidental tube removal without timely replacement
  • Improper management for airway collapse
  • Delay in replacing Tracheostomy tube once removed for changing
  • Improperly shaped tube for patient’s airway

Common Mistakes Made in Intubation / Extubation Procedures

Medical malpractice and/or negligence can result when a physician or other healthcare professional involved in maintaining a patient’s airway fails to follow proper intubation and/or extubation guidelines.  The most common mistakes made include but are not limited to the following:

  • Improper positioning of breathing tube inside a patient’s airway
  • Delay in inserting a replacement breathing tube
  • Under-inflation and/or over-inflation
  • Improper connection of breathing tube
  • Use of damaged or defective tubing equipment
  • Puncture and/or wounding of delicate tissue in a patient’s airway during procedures

Consequences of the above mistakes can include:

  • Severe and permanent brain damage
  • Loss of consciousness and/or coma
  • Vulnerability to infection (with damage to airway tissue or open wound)
  • Heart problems
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Nerve damage
  • Death

What To Do After Airway Management Errors & Intubation Negligence

New Jersey medical malpractice attorneys Weiss & Paarz have been fighting for victims of medical malpractice and preventable catastrophic injuries for over 30 years. While we cannot prevent intubation negligence or airway management malpractice, we are experienced with this type of case and can help alleviate the resulting financial and emotional stress through achieving compensation. If you or a loved one has been a victim of intubation malpractice or airway management negligence, contact us at 1-800-952-8444.


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