Assessing inhalation injury in the emergency room
Department of Emergency Medicine, Fukui Prefectural Hospital, Fukui, Japan
Abstract: Respiratory tract injuries caused by inhalation of smoke or chemical products are related to significant morbidity and mortality. While many strategies have been built up to manage cutaneous burn injuries, few logical diagnostic strategies for patients with inhalation injuries exist and almost all treatment is supportive. The goals of initial management are to ensure that the airway allows adequate oxygenation and ventilation and to avoid ventilator-induced lung injury and substances that may complicate subsequent care. Intubation should be considered if any of the following signs exist: respiratory distress, stridor, hypoventilation, use of accessory respiratory muscles, blistering or edema of the oropharynx, or deep burns to the face or neck. Any patients suspected to have inhalation injuries should receive a high concentration of supplemental oxygen to quickly reverse hypoxia and to displace carbon monoxide from protein binding sites. Management of carbon monoxide and cyanide exposure in smoke inhalation patients remains controversial. Absolute indications for hyperbaric oxygen therapy do not exist because there is a low correlation between carboxyhemoglobin levels and the severity of the clinical state. A cyanide antidote should be administered when cyanide poisoning is clinically suspected. Although an ideal approach for respiratory support of patients with inhalation injuries do not exist, it is important that they are supported using techniques that do not further exacerbate respiratory failure. A well-organized strategy for patients with inhalation injury is critical to reduce morbidity and mortality.
Keywords: inhalation injury, burn, carbon monoxide poisoning, cyanide poisoning
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