This chapter is most relevant to Section F1(ii) from the 2017 CICM Primary Syllabus, which emplores the trainees to "understand the differences encountered in the upper airway for neonates, children and adults". Weirdly, it has never come up in the CICM Part One written exam, but the Fellowship examiners sure seem to love this topic, and it accounts for a third of all Paeds questions from the adult Part Two past papers. Examples include:
Because of this increased attention in Part Two (and relative inattention in Part One), this topic is treated with some respect in the Required Reading section for Part Two exam preparation, where there is a chapter dedicated to the paediatric airway. To simplify revision and because of chronic lazyness, the author has wrecked SEO by duplicating its contents below, with minimal modification. For the purposes of logically organising this information, it was reasonable to view the differences in terms of "infants vs. adults" because the majority of anatomical weirdness in this area is seen before the age of 12 months.
|Anatomical problem||How this is a problem|
|Prominent occiput||Neck is flexed in the supine position.
Laryngoscopy will be difficult in this position.
|Small mandible||Less anterior excursion; smaller mouth opening|
|Large tongue||Large tongue relative to the size of the oral cavity. Causes airway obstruction and interferes with laryngoscopy.|
|Larger tonsils and adenoids||Can cause airway obstruction. Nasopharyngeal airways may cause bleeding and aspiration.|
|Superior laryngeal position||Located opposite the C3 to C4 vertebrae, compared with the C4 to C5 in adults. Laryngoscopy is made more difficult.|
|Large, floppy epiglottis||The epiglottis projects further into the airway and covers more of the glottis (until the age of 4)|
|Short trachea||Easy to intubate the right main bronchus.
Easy to inadvertently extubate the child.
|Narrow trachea||More predisposed to obstruction: small decreases in the airway size will cause obstruction.
The needle or surgical cricothyroidotomy is more difficult, as the target is smaller.
One should also be concerned about the risk of tracheal stenosis following prolonged intubation or tracheostomy.
|Soft trachea and cricoid||Cricoid pressure may collapse the airway|
|Anatomic subglottic narrowing||An effective anatomic seal can be expected without the need for a cuffed ETT. Foreign bodies can become lodged below the cords. This resolves by age 10-12.|