Obstructed Airway Recognition

Participants enrolled in first aid and CPR training will learn to recognize patients with obstructed airways. Without trained intervention a patient with a obstructed airway could suffer brain damage or even death. Participants trained in procedures to clear a patients airway must first learn to recognize the obstructions. Obstructions can be divided into two categories. The most common and obstruction is a partial obstruction. The most dangerous and possibly life threatening obstructions are complete obstructions also know as severe obstructions. For more information about obstructed airway recognition take a CPR HCP course in Regina. St Mark James training providers offering CPR HCP courses are offered throughout Canada. Visit our location page for more course location information.  This page will outline the signs and help in recognition of these two conditions.

Conscious victims with either partial or complete airway obstructions will try to maintain a position that allows for the maximum amount of air to pass through the airway with the least amount of airway obstruction. A patient with a severe obstruction will typically give the universal signal for a full obstruction or choking by grabbing or clutching his or her neck. This is the almost the same reaction most people give with almost any injury which is to grab the area of discomfort which also applies to choking patients that have severe discomfort around the airway.

Partial / Mild Obstructions

A patient with a mild obstruction is likely to remove the obstruction on his or her own through coughing, gurgling or gagging. Signs ans symptoms of partial obstructions include:

  • Noisy, congested and difficulty breathing
  • Hoarseness
  • Possible Cyanosis
  • Difficulty speaking

Full / Severe Obstructions

These patients are the one’s who are no longer able to pass air with any substantial air through the airway. A patient with a full obstruction will be cyanotic and if the obstruction lasts for a period of time, without intervention, it can lead to loss of consciousness and be potentially fatal. Other signs and symptoms of complete obstructions include:

  • No movement of air in or out of the patients mouth.
  • No rise in chest wall from ventilations.
  • Not able to speak or cough.

Trained rescuers must immediately intervene in situations with obstructed airways. To learn more about recognizing and providing care for patients with partial or sever obstructions take a CPR HCP or basic CPR course with any workplace approved provider.