Can you have a gag reflex while unconscious?

Can you have a gag reflex while unconscious?

Nasal airways are helpful for patients who are unconscious but not deeply so (ie: stuporous). These patients often have a gag reflex but exhibit signs of inability to protect their airway, like snoring.

How do you assess the gag reflex in an unconscious patient?

There is no standardization of how the gag reflex is tested:

  1. Most texts recommend touching the posterior pharynx, but some recommend touching the back of the tongue.
  2. The instrument used and amount of pressure applied to the pharynx isn’t standardized.

Can an unconscious patient cough?

Unlike when a person is asleep, someone who is unconscious cannot cough, clear his/her throat, or turn his/her head if in distress. When unconscious, a person is in danger of choking, making it very important to keep the airway clear while awaiting medical care.

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How do you maintain the airway of an unconscious patient?

The simplest way of ensuring an open airway in an unconscious patient is to use a head-tilt/chin-lift technique, thereby lifting the tongue from the back of the throat. The maneuver is performed by tilting the head backwards in unconscious patients, often by applying pressure to the forehead and the chin.

Why is the airway at risk in an unconscious victim?

A deeply unconscious person may lose their ability to cough and swallow to clear their airway. This is an active and noisy process, during which muscular action causes the stomach to eject its contents and potentially block the airway.

Why might the lack of a gag reflex be an issue?

Absence of the gag reflex can be a symptom of severe medical conditions that result in damage to the glossopharyngeal nerve, the vagus nerve, or brain. Bilateral acute or subacute loss of hemispheric connections to the medullary nuclei causes difficulty with swallowing, phonating and, initially, a depressed gag reflex.

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What is the purpose of gag reflex?

The reflex helps prevent choking, as well as helping to moderate the transition from liquid to solid foods during infancy. By thrusting objects in the throat toward the opening of the mouth, the gag reflex expels substances that the brain has deemed harmful.

Do unconscious patients breathe?

People who become unconscious don’t respond to loud sounds or shaking. They may even stop breathing or their pulse may become faint. This calls for immediate emergency attention.

Should a patient without a gag reflex be intubated?

Traditionally, the presence of a gag reflex has been used to guide intubation decisions. A weak gag reflex is an important risk factor for aspiration pneumonia, so its absence may trigger intubation in at-risk patients. The absence of a gag reflex may also suggest brain death in comatose patients.

What happens to the gag reflex and spontaneous breathing when unconscious?

The gag reflex and other airway protective reflexes can remain present but typically in very deeply unconscious patients they may be lost. Ditto the spontaneous breathing, it depends on whether the cause of the unconsciousness begins to affect the brain stem ( lower part of the brain) which controls them.

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What happens to unconsious patients when they stop gagging?

If they stop doing that, they are no longer unconsious patients, but dead ex-patients. The gag reflex can be very present in an unresponsive (unconscious but more correct) patient and results in a rubber airway covered in surgical lube being inserted into their nasal passage if they can’t otherwise be ventilated.

Is there a relationship between Gag Reflex absence and aspiration risk?

One study found no statistically significant relationship among strong patients between gag reflex absence and aspiration risk. Indeed, in some cases, the gag reflex may offer false reassurance, while its absence may trigger unnecessary medical interventions.

How to check the gag reflex in an intubated patient?

The more effective strategy is to touch the back of the pharynx with a laryngoscope or tongue depressor. In an intubated patient, checking the gag reflex can prove even more challenging. Some common techniques include : Is Checking the Gag Reflex Really Necessary?