Needle cricothyrotomy

Alternative names
Emergency airway puncture; Emergency airway puncture


This is an emergency incision, or insertion of a hollow needle, into the airway (larynx). It is used to treat life-threatening choking.


In an emergency situation, when someone is choking and all other efforts to assist with breathing have failed, a hollow needle can be inserted into the throat, just below the Adam’s apple (cricoid cartilage). In hospital settings, a small skin incision may be made before inserting the needle or tube.


A cricothyrotomy is recommended as an emergency procedure to relieve an airway obstruction until surgical placement of a breathing tube (tracheostomy) can be done.


Risks for any surgery are:

  • Bleeding  
  • Infection

Additional risks include:

  • Trauma to the larynx, thyroid gland, or esophagus

Expectations after surgery

Emergency airway puncture (cricothyrotomy) can be quite effective in relieving an airway obstruction.


See tracheostomy.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 8, 2012
by Armen E. Martirosyan, M.D.

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