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Oropharyngeal Airway (OPA)

Oropharyngeal Airway (OPA) Pronunciation: ˌȯr-ō-fə-ˈrin-jē-əl ˈer-ˌwā

Definition: An Oropharyngeal Airway, commonly referred to as an OPA, is a medical device called an airway adjunct used to maintain or open a patient’s airway. It does this by preventing the tongue from covering the epiglottis, which could prevent the person from breathing. This device is used in situations where the patient is unconscious and there is a risk of airway obstruction.

Frequently Asked Questions About Oropharyngeal Airways (OPAs)

When should an OPA be used?

An OPA is typically used when a patient is unconscious and at risk of developing airway obstruction, usually from the tongue or other soft tissues. It helps to keep the airway open and is often used in conjunction with other airway management techniques.

How is an OPA inserted?

To insert an OPA, the person’s mouth needs to be opened to allow for the placement of the device. It is inserted with the curve pointing upward, then rotated 180 degrees as it’s inserted past the tongue. If the patient has a gag reflex, the OPA should be removed immediately to prevent vomiting.

Can anyone insert an OPA?

Insertion of an OPA should ideally be performed by a trained healthcare professional. This is because incorrect insertion can potentially cause harm, such as damage to the mouth and throat, or causing the patient to become responsive and potentially aggressive due to the discomfort. Also, an OPA should not be used if the patient is conscious or semi-conscious, as it could stimulate a gag reflex and cause vomiting.