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Airway management of patients undergoing oral cancer surgery: a retrospective study

  • S. Mishra (a1), S. Bhatnagar (a1), R. R. Jha (a1) and A. K. Singhal (a1)



Objective: This retrospective study aims to describe the airway management and benefits of nasotracheal intubation over tracheostomy in 260 patients with oral cancer undergoing surgery. Methods and Results: The medical records of 260 patients undergoing surgery for oral cancer were reviewed for airway management during the perioperative period. Eighteen patients had previous surgery for oral cancer and were scheduled for flap reconstruction, recurrence or other complications. In 28 cases neck movement was restricted and decreased mouth opening was found in 50% of all patients because of a large growth or fixation of tissues of head and neck, oral cavity, pharynx or larynx by tumour, or radiation fibrosis. In 53 patients intubation was undertaken under spontaneous ventilation. In 20 cases the trachea was extubated in the immediate postoperative period. In 220 cases patients were extubated next morning in the intensive care unit. In none of the cases was elective tracheostomy under local anaesthesia performed before surgery for the maintenance of the airway for anaesthesia. Elective tracheostomies were done in 17 cases. Three patients remained intubated for 24–48 h because of a high suspicion of airway obstruction following extubation due to a large pectoralis major flap. These three patients received a tracheostomy because of increased oropharyngeal and laryngeal oedema. In three cases emergency tracheostomies were performed due to upper airway obstruction after extubation and in one case prolonged elective ventilation was required due to severe chest infection. Conclusion: Oral cancer patients have a potentially difficult airway but, if managed properly during perioperative period, morbidity and mortality can be reduced or avoided. Oral cancer patients can be managed safely without the routine use of a tracheostomy. Nasotracheal intubation is a safe alternative to tracheostomy in oral cancer patients except in some selected patients.


Corresponding author

Correspondence to: Seema Mishra, F-56, AIIMS Campus (West), Ansari Nagar, New Delhi 110029, India. E-mail:; Tel: +91 9899061105; Fax: +91 11 26588641/63


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Airway management of patients undergoing oral cancer surgery: a retrospective study

  • S. Mishra (a1), S. Bhatnagar (a1), R. R. Jha (a1) and A. K. Singhal (a1)


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