Opening the Airway
Many problems of airway obstruction, par-
ticularly those caused by the tongue, can be cor-
rected simply by repositioning the head and neck.
If repositioning does not alleviate the problem,
more aggressive measures must be taken. NOTE:
Before going further, it is imperative that cor-
psmen remember to check all victims for possible
spinal injuries before any repositioning is at-
tempted. If there is no time to immobilize these
injuries and the airway cannot be opened with the
victim in the present position, then great care must
be taken when repositioning. The head, neck, and
back must be moved as a single unit. To do this,
adhere to the following steps (see figure 4-2).
Kneel to the side of the victim in line with
the victims shoulders but far enough away
so that the victims body will not touch
yours when it is rolled toward you.
Straighten the victims legs, gently but
Move the victims closest arm along the
floor until it reaches straight out past the
Support the back of the victims head with
one hand while you reach over with the
other hand to grab the far shoulder.
Figure 4-3.Head tilt.
Figure 4-4.Jaw thrust.
. Pull the far shoulder toward you while at
the same time keeping the head and neck
in a natural straight line with the back. The
head resting on the extended arm will help
you in this critical task.
The head tilt technique of opening the airway
is a simple repositioning of the head. With the
patient lying down, place one of your hands on
his or her forehead and apply gentle, firm,
backward pressure using the palm of your hand.
With your other hand under the victims neck,
lift the neck (fig. 4-3). This will lift the patients
tongue away from the back of the throat and pro-
vide an adequate airway. NOTE: This technique
is not recommended for patients with suspected
neck or spinal injuries.
A second technique for opening the airway is
the jaw thrust. This technique is accomplished by
kneeling by the top of the victims head and plac-
ing your fingers behind the angles of the lower
jaw (fig. 4-4A), or hooking your fingers under the
jaw (fig. 4-4B), then bringing the jaw forward.
Separate the lips with your thumbs to allow
breathing through the mouth as well as the nose.
This technique is to be used if a neck injury is
Either the head tilt or the jaw thrust will of-
fer some relief for most forms of airway obstruc-
tion. They also prepare the airway for artificial
If the airway is still seriously
obstructed, it may be necessary to try to remove
the obstruction by using the abdominal thrust or
chest thrust methods indicated for opening a com-
pletely blocked airway.