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Nursing Diagnosis for Ineffective Airway Clearance

Nursing Diagnosis for Ineffective Airway Clearance

NANDA Definition: Inability to clear secretions or obstructions from the respiratory tract to maintain airway patency

Maintaining a patent airway is vital to life. Coughing is the main mechanism for clearing the airway. However, the cough may be ineffective in both normal and disease states secondary to factors such as pain from surgical incisions/ trauma, respiratory muscle fatigue, or neuromuscular weakness. Other mechanisms that exist in the lower bronchioles and alveoli to maintain the airway include the mucociliary system, macrophages, and the lymphatics. Factors such as anesthesia and dehydration can affect function of the mucociliary system. Likewise, conditions that cause increased production of secretions (e.g., pneumonia, bronchitis, and chemical irritants) can overtax these mechanisms. Ineffective airway clearance can be an acute (e.g., postoperative recovery) or chronic (e.g., from cerebrovascular accident [CVA] or spinal cord injury) problem. Elderly patients, who have an increased incidence of emphysema and a higher prevalence of chronic cough or sputum production, are at high risk.


Nursing Diagnosis for Ineffective Airway Clearance

Defining Characteristics
  • Abnormal breath sounds (crackles, rhonchi, wheezes)
  • Changes in respiratory rate or depth
  • Cough
  • Hypoxemia/cyanosis
  • Dyspnea
  • Chest wheezing
  • Fever
  • Tachycardia

Related Factors
  • Decreased energy and fatigue
  • Ineffective cough
  • Tracheobronchial infection
  • Tracheobronchial obstruction (including foreign body aspiration)
  • Copious tracheobronchial secretions
  • Perceptual/cognitive impairment
  • Impaired respiratory muscle function
  • Trauma

Expected Outcomes
  • Patient's secretions are mobilized and airway is maintained free of secretions, as evidenced by clear lung sounds, eupnea, and ability to effectively cough up secretions after treatments and deep breaths.

NOC Outcomes (Nursing Outcomes Classification)
Suggested NOC Labels

  • Respiratory Status: Airway Patency

NIC Interventions (Nursing Interventions Classification)
Suggested NIC Labels
  • Cough Enhancement
  • Airway Management
  • Airway Suctioning