Case Report| Volume 53, 103611, February 2023

Successful surgical cricothyroidotomy following an obstetric “can’t oxygenate” scenario: a narrative of enabling factors

Published:October 26, 2022DOI:


      • “Can’t oxygenate” is a rare obstetric airway complication.
      • Surgical cricothyroidotomy is also a rare obstetric airway intervention.
      • Enabling factors ensure adequate preparation to undertake an emergency task.
      • Enabling factors ensure the ability to implement and execute an emergency task.


      The airway management of a patient requiring emergency caesarean delivery for fetal distress and pre-eclampsia with severe features is described. A difficult obstetric airway was anticipated prior to induction and managed with the use of decision-support guidelines and cognitive aids. Failed tracheal intubation later progressed to a “can’t oxygenate” scenario necessitating front-of-neck-access via surgical cricothyroidotomy. We discuss the factors which facilitated the preparation and implementation of interventions required to successfully execute this high-acuity task.


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