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  • • Oropharyngeal airways provide a conduit for airflow through the mouth to the pharynx.

    • Oropharyngeal airways prevent mandibular tissue from obstructing the posterior pharynx.

    • Oropharyngeal airways may be used in the unconscious infant or child if procedures (ie, head tilt-chin lift or jaw thrust) to open the airway fail to provide and maintain a clear, unobstructed airway.




  • • Avoid inserting an oropharyngeal airway in conscious or semiconscious patients because it may stimulate gagging and vomiting.


  • • Oropharyngeal airways come in various sizes ranging from 4 cm to 10 cm.

    • Oropharyngeal airways consist of a flange, a short bite-block segment, and a curved body usually made of plastic and shaped to provide an air channel and suction conduit through the mouth.


  • • Oropharyngeal airways do not prevent aspiration.


  • • Measure the distance from the central incisors to the angle of the mandible to approximate the correct size oral airway.


  • • Head and airway must be positioned properly to maintain a patent airway even after insertion of an oropharyngeal airway.


  • • The upper airway consists of the oropharynx, the nasopharynx, and supraglottic structures.


  • • The airway can be placed with a tongue blade holding the tongue on the floor of the mouth.

    • Depress the tongue and gently glide the airway with the concave side downward, following the curvature of the tongue.

    • The airway can also be introduced upside down and gently rotated to the proper position, using rotation to pull the base of the tongue forward.

    • • Do not exert pressure on the palate if using this technique.

      • This technique is done without instrumentation.

    Figure 2–1 shows an oral airway in place (sagittal view).

Figure 2–1.
Graphic Jump Location

Sagittal view of oral airway in place.


  • • Monitor for airway obstruction; the following clinical signs may manifest:

    • • Agitation.

      • Desaturation.

      • Impaired air exchange when auscultated.

      • Diminished chest rise.

    • Use pulse oximetry to measure oxygen saturation levels.

    • Measure heart rate.

    • Check blood pressure using a noninvasive device.


  • • If the oropharyngeal airway is too large, it may obstruct the larynx, make a tight mask fit difficult, and traumatize laryngeal structures.

    • If the oropharyngeal airway is too small or is inserted improperly, it pushes the tongue posteriorly, obstructing the airway.

    • If the oral airway is placed in the awake patient, it may induce vomiting, aspiration, and laryngospasm.

    • If the airway is too long, it may induce vomiting and aspiration.


  • • The oropharyngeal airway may not be sufficient to relieve upper airway obstruction, and the patient may subsequently require intubation.

Hazinski MF et al, eds. PALS Provider Manual. Dallas, Texas: American Heart Association; 2002:90–91.
Holinger LD, Lusk RP, Green CG, eds. Pediatric ...

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