Airway Management for Acute and Reconstructive Burns: Our 30-year Experience

Brita M. Mittal, Robert A. McQuitty, Mark Talon, Alexis L. McQuitty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Airway management in both acute and reconstructive burn patients can be a major challenge for evaluation, intubation, and securing the airway in the setting of altered airway structure. Airway evaluation in both acute and reconstructive patients includes examination for evidence of laryngeal and supraglottic edema and structural changes due to trauma and/or scarring that will impact the successful approach to acquiring an airway for surgical procedures and medical recovery. The approach to acquiring a successful airway is rarely standard laryngoscopy and often requires fiberoptic bronchoscopy and a variety of airway manipulation techniques. Tracheostomy should be reserved for those with classic requirements of ventilatory and/or mechanical failure or severe upper airway burns. Even securing an airway for surgical procedures, especially with patients suffering injuries involving the head and neck, can be nonstandard and requires creative and flexible approaches to be successful. After much trial and error over the past 30 years in a large burn center, our multidisciplinary team has learned many valuable lessons. This review will focus on our current approach to safe airway management in acute and reconstructive burn patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSeminars in Plastic Surgery
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • airway evaluation
  • airway management
  • bronchoscopy
  • pediatric burn

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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