Life and Breath: Upper Airway Guidelines

By Vangie Dennis

The 2010 EPRI Institute estimated the number of operating room fires occurring annually in the United States are 550-650 which includes about 115-135 airway fires. Airway fires continue to be the most prevalent cause of operating room fire-induced serious injuries and death.  The surgical team should understand ignition sources, fuels and oxidizers present during head and neck surgery and employ the preventative measures to decrease the potential for this type of surgical fire.  This presentation will review legal cases of airway fires with the primary objective and focus on prevention. The emphasis will be on background information regarding each component of the “ignition triad,” airway fire cases with their immediate and root causes, the importance of the role of the medical laser safety officer and the operating room nurse and the legal aspects and implications of operating room airway fires. This presentation will discuss airway protocols, with a focus on lasers, electrosurgery and other ignition sources, as well as and the collaborative team approach in developing guidelines, implementation of the educational component and the policy enforcement and monitoring to insure on-going patient safety.  Surgical case studies will be reviewed addressing the specific competency related to the procedure.

Upon completion of this educational offering the individual will:

  • Discuss the adherent risks with ignition sources and upper airway procedures.
  • Describe the multidisciplinary approach to developing guidelines for upper airway safety.
  • Identify intervention strategies for managing optimal patient safety during head and neck surgery.
  • Analyze administrative issues related to quality outcomes and continuity of patient care.
  • Discuss a means for risk assessment, and development of control measures.
  • Identify the specific guidelines for the surgical team with patients undergoing airway procedures.

This course is designed to familiarize the medical personnel with the guidelines and techniques in optimizing patient safety and good clinical outcomes.  Essential information will be covered to provide the surgical team in   understanding the recent practices as well as their roles and responsibilities in providing patient and personnel safety during head and neck procedures.