Respiratory distress is the most common recovery room emergency.
It may be caused by laryngospasm, aspiration of vomitus, or depressed respirations resulting from medications.
A laryngospasm is a sudden, violent contraction of the vocal cords; a complication, which may happen after the patient's endotracheal tube, is removed.
After completing this short lesson, the learner should be able to:
Cite the facts related to respiratory distress.
Identify nursing implications related to the prevention of respiratory distress.
Respiratory distress is the most common recovery room emergency. It may be caused by laryngospasm, aspiration of vomitus, or depressed respirations resulting from medications.
During the surgical procedure with general anesthesia, an endotracheal tube is inserted to maintain patent air passages. The endotracheal tube may be connected to a mechanical ventilator. Upon completion of the operation, the endotracheal tube is removed by the anesthesiologist or anesthetist and replaced by an oropharyngeal airway (figure 8-4).
Figure 8-4. Oropharyngeal airway.
(2) Swallowing and cough reflexes are diminished by the effects of anesthesia and secretions are retained. To prevent aspiration, vomitus or secretions should be removed promptly by suction.
(3) Ineffective airway clearance may be related to the effects of anesthesia and drugs that were administered before and during surgery. If possible, an unconscious or semiconscious patient should be placed in a position that allows fluids to drain from the mouth.
b. After removal of the endotracheal tube by the anesthesiologist or anesthetist, an oropharyngeal airway is inserted to prevent the tongue from obstructing the passage of air during recovery from anesthesia. The airway is left in place until the patient is conscious.