A nasopharyngeal airway is a device used in emergency medicine, specifically in prehospital care (ambulance/EMT). It is used to maintain an open passage for air from the nose to the posterior pharynx in a patient who is unable to maintain his airway himself.
Nasopharyngeal (NP) airways are tubes made of thick rubber that are slightly curved, with a flange on one end and a bevel on the other end. They come in different sizes. To measure a NP airway, lay the flange end against the edge of the nostril. The tip should touch the earlobe. The diameter of the airway should be such that it fits comfortably into the nostril.
Nasopharyngeal airways can be used on patients where the oropharyngeal airway is contraindicated, such as conscious patients or patients with deformity of the oral cavity. NP airway placement should not be attempted if cerebrospinal fluid is leaking from the nose.
Before placing a nasopharyngeal airway, the nostrils should be examined. Usually one nostril is larger than the other. Nostrils must be assessed for patency, too, since broken noses or septal deviation may obstruct them.
Once a nostril is selected, the NP airway should be lubricated with water-soluble lubricant. It should then be introduced gently, with the bevel towards the septum. As it is advanced, it should be twisted to fit the natural curvature of the nasopharynx(the bevel will ultimately be away from the septum).