Emergency airway punctureNeedle cricothyrotomy
Emergency airway puncture is the placement of a hollow needle into the airway in the throat. It is done to treat life-threatening choking.
Emergency airway puncture is done in an emergency situation, when someone is choking and all other efforts to assist with breathing have failed.
- A hollow needle or tube can be inserted into the throat, just below the Adam's apple (thyroid cartilage), into the airway. The needle passes between the thyroid cartilage and the cricoid cartilage.
- In a hospital, before inserting the needle, a small cut may be made in the skin and the membrane between the thyroid and cricoid cartilages.
Why the Procedure Is Performed
If the airway blockage occurs with trauma to the head, neck, or spine, care must be taken to avoid further injury to the person.
Risks for this procedure include:
- Injury to the voice box (larynx), thyroid gland, or esophagus
Risks for any surgery are:
How well the person does depends on the cause of the airway blockage and how quickly the person receives proper breathing support. Emergency airway puncture provides enough breathing support for only a very short period of time.
Cattano D, Piacentini AGG, Cavallone LF. Percutaneous emergency airway access. In: Hagberg CA, Artime CA, Aziz MF, eds. Hagberg and Benumof's Airway Management. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 27.
Herbert RB, Thomas D. Cricothyrotomy and percutaneous translaryngeal ventilation. In: Roberts JR, Custalow CB, Thomsen TW, eds. Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine and Acute Care. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 6.
Emergency airway puncture - illustration
Emergency airway puncture
Cricoid cartilage - illustration
Emergency airway puncture - series
Review Date: 10/11/2018
Reviewed By: Jesse Borke, MD, FACEP, FAAEM, Attending Physician at FDR Medical Services/Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Buffalo, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.