Melbourne: A world-first anaesthesia technique that makes surgery safer for patients with obstructed airways has helped save a person with an infected epiglottis, Australian scientists said today.
"An adult patient with an infected epiglottis was in danger of having his airway blocked by rapid swelling, and this technique enabled us to safely control his airway without surgery," said Anton Booth, Senior Lecturer at University of Queensland.
"It is also making a difference to quality of life for those people who may previously have been unsuitable for surgery," Booth said.
Anaesthetists at Australia's Princess Alexandra Hospital combined two relatively new techniques to develop the new approach known as STRIVE Hi.
"Traditionally with anaesthesia we expect patients to stop breathing, as we are putting them into a state resembling a medically-induced coma," Booth said.
"In patients undergoing surgery for narrowed airways we cannot insert a tube into the trachea where the surgeons are trying to operate. Instead we implemented a way to keep the patient breathing spontaneously during anaesthesia," said Booth.
The team supplemented that approach by adding high-flow nasal oxygen supply, previously used in intensive care and respiratory units.
"Through this combination we have been able to manage anaesthesia for patients with very challenging airway narrowing," he said.
"We have been able to achieve quite spectacular improvements in oxygen levels while patients are in deep anaesthesia.
"This is a modern alternative to traditional techniques and has great potential to be used in many other scenarios," Booth added.
The research was published in the British Journal of Anaesthesia.