Indian Journal of Anaesthesia  
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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 58  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 684-692

Neurological deterioration during intubation in cervical spine disorders

1 Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care, Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad, Telangana, India
2 Department of Neurosurgery, Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad, Telangana, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Padmaja Durga
Department of Anaesthesiology, Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad - 500 089, Telangana
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-5049.147132

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Anaesthesiologists are often involved in the management of patients with cervical spine disorders. Airway management is often implicated in the deterioration of spinal cord function. Most evidence on neurological deterioration resulting from intubation is from case reports which suggest only association, but not causation. Most anaesthesiologists and surgeons probably believe that the risk of spinal cord injury (SCI) during intubation is largely due to mechanical compression produced by movement of the cervical spine. But it is questionable that the small and brief deformations produced during intubation can produce SCI. Difficult intubation, more frequently encountered in patients with cervical spine disorders, is likely to produce greater movement of spine. Several alternative intubation techniques are shown to improve ease and success, and reduce cervical spine movement but their role in limiting SCI is not studied. The current opinion is that most neurological injuries during anaesthesia are the result of prolonged deformation, impaired perfusion of the cord, or both. To prevent further neurological injury to the spinal cord and preserve spinal cord function, minimizing movement during intubation and positioning for surgery are essential. The features that diagnose laryngoscopy induced SCI are myelopathy present on recovery, short period of unconsciousness, autonomic disturbances following laryngoscopy, cranio-cervical junction disease or gross instability below C3. It is difficult to accept or refute the claim that neurological deterioration was induced by intubation. Hence, a record of adequate care at laryngoscopy and also perioperative period are important in the event of later medico-legal proceedings.

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