Foreign body aspiration during intubation, advanced airway management or ventilation

A National Patient Safety Alert has been issued on the risk of foreign body aspiration during intubation, advanced airway management or ventilation.

About this alert

Foreign body aspiration can occur if loose items are unintentionally introduced into the airway during intubation, ventilation or advanced airway management. This can lead to partial or complete airway blockage or obstruction, and if the cause is not suspected, can be fatal.

The most common types of foreign bodies identified in incident reports were transparent backing plastic from electrocardiogram (ECG) electrodes and plastic caps of unclear origin.

The alert asks providers to reduce this risk by purchasing safer alternative equipment without loose and transparent parts. Providers are also asked to develop or amend local protocols to ensure pre-prepared intubation and advanced airway management devices are covered or protected until use; and that the ends of reusable breathing system hoses are closed between patient cases.

About National Patient Safety Alerts

This alert has been issued as a National Patient Safety Alert.

The NHS England and NHS Improvement patient safety team is the first national body to have been accredited to issue National Patient Safety Alerts by the National Patient Safety Alerting Committee (NaPSAC). All National Patient Safety Alerts are required to meet NaPSAC’s thresholds and standards. These thresholds and standards include working with patients, frontline staff and experts to ensure alerts provide clear, effective actions for safety-critical issues.

NaPSAC requires providers to introduce new systems for planning and coordinating the actions required by any National Patient Safety Alert across their organisation, with executive oversight.

Failure to take the actions required under any National Patient Safety Alert may lead to CQC taking regulatory action.

Patient safety alerts are shared rapidly with healthcare providers via the Central Alerting System (CAS).

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