Acute Upper Airway Obstruction in the Postburn Period

J. Paul Waymack, MD; Edward Law, MD; Richard Park, MD; Bruce G. MacMillan, MD; J. Wesley Alexander, MD
Arch Surg. 1985;120(9):1042-1044. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1985.01390330052010.
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• Upper airway obstruction in the severely burned patient is a well-known problem that is due to mucosal edema secondary to the effects of toxic substances and heat on the laryngeal and tracheal mucosa. Herein, we report a different cause of airway obstruction seen in the late postburn period during the induction of anesthesia for reconstructive procedures. This obstruction is due to the presence of severe burn-scar contractures of the neck that prevent successful endotracheal intubation. We have seen this occur 17 times in 13 patients. All of the patients were successfully treated by an emergency neck release, after which most of the patients could be intubated and the release then skin grafted. Surgeons operating on patients with scar contractures of the neck should be aware of this condition and its appropriate treatment.

(Arch Surg 1985;120:1042-1044)


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