The nurse discovers an unconscious patient and suspects a spinal cord injury. After calling for help and delivering chest compressions, a second nurse arrives who immediately


• The most common cause of airway obstruction in the unresponsive patient is the loss of tone in the tongue and throat. This is prevented by opening the airway using either the head tilt-chin lift or the jaw-thrust maneuver.

• With a suspected spinal cord injury, the nurse should administer two breaths using the jaw-thrust maneuver.

• This maneuver brings the chin down to open the mouth and airway without extending/bending the neck back.  The jaw-thrust is performed by using the index and middle fingers to physically push the posterior mandible upwards while the thumbs push down on the chin at the same time to open the mouth. This lifts the tongue from the back of the airway and relieves obstruction.

• Two breaths should be administered for every 30 compressions.

• The chin-tilt maneuver bends the neck back and pulls the chin open, but this will hyperextend the neck, increasing the risk to those with a suspected spinal cord injury.

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