Clinical Manifestations of Foreign Body Airway Obstruction

In this article, we will discuss the Clinical Manifestations of Foreign Body Airway Obstruction. So, let’s get started.

Clinical Manifestations

The clinical feature varies according to severity of obstruction.

I. In partial obstruction due to a foreign body, the patient may struggle with the obstruction and tries to ‘ cough it out ‘ or tries to swallow or ‘ wash it down with water ‘. The patient is responsive and can cough forcibly. If air entry is poor, then signs of poor air exchange will appear such as weak ineffective cough, high-pitched noise while inspiration (stridor), increased respiratory difficulty and cyanosis.

II. With complete airway obstruction, the patient may clutch the neck with the thumb and fingers (universal distress sign for choking) and following signs may appear:

  • Inability to speak, breath and cough
  • Pallor followed by cyanosis
  • Loss of consciousness and collapse

If obstruction is not relieved immediately patient may develop cardiac arrest and die.


Causes of Asphyxia

In this article, we will discuss various Causes of Asphyxia. So, let’s get started

Asphyxia refers to an airway obstruction leading to less or non-delivery of atmospheric oxygen to the lungs resulting in carbon-di-oxide retention. Asphyxia can be caused due to mechanical or non-mechanical obstructions.


Mechanical causes

Covering of face (e.g. plastic bag)

Gag or pad smothering (closing of the external respiratory orifice by hand or by other means)


Food or foreign body obstruction (choking)

Throttling (compression of the neck manually)

Hanging or strangulation


Traumatic asphyxia

Non-mechanical causes

Diseases such as Diptheria, infectious mononucleosis, H.influenzae

Rupture of aortic aneurysm in air passages

Hemoptysis in pulmonary tuberculosis

Erosion of bronchus by a tubercular gland

Laryngeal edema because of steam inhalation, ingestion of irritant substances, drug allergies, and poisons

Retropharyngeal edema

Laryngeal or bronchial outgrowths

Non-penetrating injury to the front of the neck

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