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Airway - Airway manoeuvres

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Upper airway obstruction (partial or complete)

Contraindications (absolute in bold)



Oropharyngeal airway

Nasopharyngeal airway

Non-invasive positive pressure ventilation

Laryngeal mask airway


Informed consent

Medical emergency

Consent is not required

Potential complications


Failure to open airway

Procedural hygiene

Standard precautions

PPE: non-sterile gloves




Procedural clinician







Sequence (head-tilt, chin-lift)

Place one hand on the patient’s forehead and tilt the patients head backwards

Lift the mandible at the mentum using index and middle fingertips (avoiding soft tissue compression)

Simultaneously apply downward pressure to the patient’s forehead

The thumb may be used to grip the chin aiding chin-lift and mouth opening

Sequence (jaw thrust)

Place index and middle fingertips behind angle of the mandible on each side

Place the thenar eminence of each hand over the zygomatic arch

Pull mandible anteriorly until lower incisors are anterior to upper incisors

The thumb may be used to grip to aid mouth opening

Sequence (airway obstruction from fluid or matter)

Roll patient onto side, open mouth and turn head downwards to allow material to drain, or log roll with manual C-spine immobilisation and open mouth if C-spine injury suspected

Large-bore (more effective) or Yankauer (reduced trauma) suction of secretions

Remove loose dentures but allow well-fitting dentures to remain

Post-procedure care

Definitive airway management if required


Morbidly obese patients require increased head elevation (ramping) to achieve the sniffing position


All airway manoeuvres are associated with some movement of the cervical spine. In suspected C-spine injury manual in-line stabilisation of the C-spine should be provided with jaw thrust preferred and chin-lift added only if jaw thrust fails. While we always try to protect the spine, it is important to remember opening the airway takes precedence over spinal or other injuries.

Peer review

This guideline has been reviewed and approved by the following expert groups:

Emergency Care Institute

Please direct feedback for this procedure to


Australian Resuscitation Council and New Zealand Resuscitation Council. ANZCOR guideline 4 – airway. Melbourne: Australian Resuscitation Council and New Zealand Resuscitation Council; 2016. 7pp. Available from

Roberts JR, Custalow CB, Thomsen TW. Roberts and Hedges' clinical procedures in emergency medicine and acute care. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019.

Dunn RJ, Borland M, O'Brien D (eds.). The emergency medicine manual. Online ed. Tennyson, SA: Venom Publishing; 2019.

Wittels KA. Basic airway management in adults. In: UpToDate. Waltham (MA): UpToDate. 2019 Sept 17. Retrieved March 2019. Available from:

Guildner CW. Resuscitation - opening the airway. A comparative study of techniques for opening an airway obstructed by the tongue. JACEP. 1976;5(8):588. DOI: 10.1016/s0361-1124(76)80217-1

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