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Emergency airway management in the geriatric patient

Calvin A Brown, III, MD, FAAEM
Christian Arbelaez, MD, MPH
Section Editor
Deputy Editor
Jonathan Grayzel, MD, FAAEM


United States Census data estimate that 77 million Americans, or nearly 20 percent of the overall population, will be over age 65 by the year 2030 [1]. Similar trends are apparent throughout the developed world. The increase in the number of older adults has been accompanied by an increase in the use of health care, including the emergency department (ED), by patients with significant comorbid conditions such as diabetes, coronary artery disease (CAD), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cancer.

Many older patients with comorbid disease will require airway management during the course of their illness. Increased patient age and its associated comorbidities affect airway management in four principal areas:

Increased likelihood of requiring intubation during acute illness

Increased difficulty performing bag-mask ventilation and intubation

Increased difficulty maintaining oxygenation and preventing complications due to reduced cardiopulmonary reserve

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: May 31, 2017.
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