WHAT IF THE TRACHEAL TUBE FALLS OUT WHEN THE ANESTHESIOLOGIST AND THE ANESTHESIA MACHINE ARE AT THE PATIENT’S FEET?

the anesthesia consultant

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997

Clinical Case for Discussion: It is the conclusion of a craniotomy for a tumor resection on a 50-year-old, 80 kg woman.  The operating room table is turned 180 degrees, you are the sole anesthesiologist. and you are at the patient’s feet.   The nurse and scrub tech are applying the head dressing.  The patient coughs, turns her head, and the endotracheal tube comes out above the vocal cords.  What do you do?

Discussion:    You have been peering intently at the monitors and the patient for the past 4 uneventful hours, seeking the perfect anesthetic, but now you have some urgent work to do.

The approach to acute medical care is always:  Airway, Breathing, and Circulation.

In this case, the airway is distant from you and your equipment, because the surgeon needed full access to the head for the surgery.  Your first move is to go to the head of the table, and attempt to push the endotracheal tube (ETT)  back into the trachea.  This is not successful.  The oxygen saturation is 100%, so the patient is in no immediate danger.  You unlock the OR table, and and rotate it back so that the patient’s head is next to the anesthesia equipment again.  You  remove the ETT, apply a mask to the patient, and manage the airway as the patient awakens from anesthesia.

What if the oxygen saturation had dropped below 90% when the ETT fell out?

The answer is the same.  You take the time to turn the table so that the patient’s head is back adjacent to your airway equipment and anesthesia machine, and then you use mask ventilation to return the patient’s oxygenation to a safe level.  To deliver continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or positive pressure ventilation to your patient, you need to be able to reach both the ventilation bag and hold the mask over the patient’s face.  You can not do this if the table is turned 180 degrees.  If the patient develops laryngospasm that you can not break with CPAP, a small dose of succinylcholine (10 – 20 mg) is recommended.

Any attempt to manage the airway problem with the table still turned 180 degrees, but relying on the surgeon or the circulating nurse to hand you drugs and equipment, or to squeeze the bag on the circle system, is not recommended by this author.  Their skill level may not be what you were used to in  your residency training, when you were sharing the responsibility with a second anesthesiologist.

What if, in a parallel universe, at the onset of this same scenario a different anesthesia provider inserted the laryngoscope into the patient’s mouth to attempt to replace the ETT.    The patient bit down on the blade, and the anesthesiologist wrestled with a forceful laryngoscopy.  The oxygen saturation dropped below 90%.  He decided to inject succinylcholine to paralyze the patient, but his drugs and syringes were at the foot of the operating room table, six feet away and out of reach.  He instructed the nurse to draw up and inject the drug for him, but this took over 60 seconds of valuable time, during which the patient was hypoxic.  He finally inserted the ETT into the trachea, and was able to ventilate the lungs to increase the oxygen saturation to 100% again. But the blood pressure was now 180/110, the heart rate was 140 beats per minute, and the intracranial pressure was higher than the surgeon’s temper at this point.

Make a different choice:  turn the head end of the operating room table back to where your equipment is.

Regarding the possibility of the ETT coming out during surgery, I anticipate comments like:   “How could this happen?  Why didn’t you use Benzoin to hold the ETT tape to the skin overlying the maxilla?  Why did you tape the tube to the mandible instead of the mandible? You should hold the ETT yourself when you are awakening a patient and they are applying a head dressing.  You should keep the patient anesthetized until the dressing is done,” etc.

Alas, despite experience and planning, unexpected events do occur.  Your worth as a clinician will be proven and tested by how you handle the unexpected.

In sum:  If you are working alone, and an airway problem occurs with the airway six feet away from your anesthesia equipment, I advise you to bring the airway back to your equipment.

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Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

41wlRoWITkL

Learn more about Rick Novak’s fiction writing at ricknovak.com by clicking on the picture below:  

DSC04882_edited

 

 

ANESTHESIA FACTS FOR LAYPEOPLE: CHILDBIRTH, CARDIAC SURGERY, AND BRAIN SURGERY

the anesthesia consultant

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997

I.  CHILDBIRTH (OBSTETRIC ANESTHESIA):

Most obstetric anesthesia is for either vaginal delivery or for Cesarean sections.

Anesthesia for Vaginal Delivery:  Anesthesia for vaginal delivery is utilized to diminish the pain of labor contractions, while leaving the mother as alert as possible, with as muscle strength as possible, to be able to push the baby out at the time of delivery.  Anesthesia for labor and vaginal delivery is usually accomplished by epidural injection of the local anesthetics bupivicaine (brand name Marcaine) or ropivicaine.

is done by the injection of local anesthetic solution, with or without a narcotic medication, into the low back into the epidural space. Prior to beginning anesthesia, the anesthesiologist places monitors of blood pressure, electrocardiogram, pulse and oxygen saturation of the blood.

The word epidural translates to “outside the dura”. The dura is the outermost lining of the meninges covering the nerves of the spinal column. The epidural space is located with a needle by the anesthesiologist, and the appropriate anesthetic medications are injected.   Often, a tiny catheter is left in the epidural space, taped to the patient’s low back, to allow repeated doses of the medication to be given.  The catheter is removed after childbirth.

Anesthesia for Cesarean Section: Cesarean section is a surgical procedure in which the obstetrician makes an incision through the skin of the lower abdomen, and through the wall of the uterus, or womb, to extract the baby without the child requiring a vaginal delivery.  Anesthesia for Cesarean section is usually a spinal or an epidural anesthetic, which leaves the mother as alert as possible, while rendering surgical anesthesia to her abdomen and pelvis.  Spinal or epidural anesthesia is accomplished by injection of local anesthetics, with or without a narcotic medication, into the low back into the subarachnoid or the epidural space. The anesthesiologist remains present for the entire surgical procedure, to assure that the mother is comfortable and that all vital signs are maintained as close to normal limits as possible.

In a minority of cases, the anesthesia provider will administer a general anesthetic for Cesarean section surgery.  The most common indications for general anesthesia are (1) emergency Cesarean, when there is no time for a spinal or epidural block;  and (2) significant bleeding by the mother, leading to a low blood volume, which is an unsafe circumstance to administer a spinal or epidural block.  General anesthetics for Cesarean section carry an increased risk over spinal/epidural anesthesia, primarily because the mother is no longer able to breath on her own and maintain her own airway.

II.  CARDIAC SURGERY/OPEN HEART SURGERY:

Open heart surgery requires specialized equipment.  Anesthesia for cardiac surgery is complex, and the following is a brief summary:  Prior to the surgery, the anesthesiologist inserts a catheter into the radial artery at the wrist, to monitor the patient’s blood pressure continuously, rather than relying on a blood pressure cuff.  This enables the anesthesiologist to fine-tune the blood pressure, never allowing it to be too high or too low for an extended period of time.  The anesthesiologist also inserts a catheter (a central venous catheter, or CVP catheter) into a large vein in the patient’s neck.  The anesthesiologist uses this catheter to monitor the pressure inside the heart, and also to administer infusions of potent medications into the central circulation to raise or lower the blood pressure, or to increase the heart’s pumping function.

After the patient is anesthetized, the anesthesiologist often inserts a Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE) probe into the patient’s mouth, down the esophagus, and into the stomach.  The TEE gives the anesthesiologist a two-dimensional image of the beating heart and the heart valves in real time, and enables him or her to adjust medications and fluid administration as needed to keep the patient stable.

For open heart surgery, once the chest is open, the cardiac surgeon inserts additional tubes into the veins and arteries around the heart, diverting the patient’s blood from the heart and lungs into a heart-lung machine located alongside the operating table.  During the time the patient is connected to the heart-lung machine, the patient’s heart can be stopped so that the surgeon can operate on a motionless heart.

When the surgeon has completed the cardiac repair, the heart is restarted, and the heart-lung machine is disconnected from the patient.

As the heart resumes beating, the anesthesiologist manages the drug therapy and intravenous fluid therapy to optimize the cardiac function.

III.  ANESTHESIA FOR NEUROSURGERY (BRAIN SURGERY):

Intracranial (brain) surgery requires exacting maintenance of blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory control.  Prior to the surgery, the anesthesiologist inserts a catheter into the radial artery at the wrist, to monitor the patient’s blood pressure continuously, rather than relying on a blood pressure cuff.  This enables the anesthesiologist to fine-tune the blood pressure, never allowing it to be too high or too low for an extended period of time.  The anesthesiologist also inserts a catheter (a central venous catheter, or CVP catheter) into a large vein in the patient’s neck.  The anesthesiologist uses this catheter to monitor the pressure inside the heart, and also to administer infusions of potent medications into the central circulation to raise or lower the blood pressure.

The anesthetic technique is designed to provide a motionless operating field for the surgeon.  After the anesthesiologist anesthetizes the patient, he or she inserts the endotracheal tube into the windpipe.  The patient is often hyperventilated, because hyperventilation causes the blood vessels in the brain to constrict, and makes the volume of the the brain decrease.  The relaxed brain affords the surgeon more room to dissect and expose brain tumors or aneurysms.

An important goal of the anesthetic is a quick wake-up at the conclusion of surgery, so that (1) normal neurological recovery of the patient can be confirmed, and (2) the patient is alert enough to  maintain their own airway and breathe on their own.  Most brain surgery patients spend at least one night in the intensive care unit (ICU) after surgery.

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Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

41wlRoWITkL

Learn more about Rick Novak’s fiction writing at ricknovak.com by clicking on the picture below:  

DSC04882_edited