The oropharyngeal airway

The oropharyngeal airway can serve three purposes.

1. Upper airway obstruction may be relieved by anterior displacement of the tongue.

2. Since it is an oral airway, it opens up an oral passage for air movement.

3. The incorporated bite block will protect the airway (and any other oral airway adjunct such as a laryngeal mask airway or oral tracheal tube) if masseter muscle tone recovers.

If the airway has been opened using the chin lift or jaw thrust techniques described above, insertion of an oropharyngeal airway may free up a pair of hands.

Clenched jaws, vulnerable dentition, and active bleeding in the oro/hypopharynx may preclude insertion of an oral airway. Active glossopharyngeal reflexes will cause the patient to reject the airway at the very least, and might even promote vomiting which would increase the risk of pulmonary aspiration of stomach contents. It is better to intubate these patients if ventilation is compromised or consider a nasopharyngeal airway.

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