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How Do You Assess Someone's Mallampati Score?

Reviewed on 6/16/2020

What Is Mallampati?

A Mallampati score indicates the degree of difficulty in performing an endotracheal intubation.
A Mallampati score indicates the degree of difficulty in performing an endotracheal intubation.

Prior to endotracheal intubation, medical professionals use the Mallampati classification to assess whether to expect complications during the procedure due to the anatomy of the patient's teeth, tongue, mouth, and soft palate.

A medical professional performs the assessment with the patient sitting up straight. The health care practitioner has the patient open their mouth as wide as possible and stick their tongue out. The practitioner examines the throat area, identifying key landmarks of the soft palate, uvula, and tonsillar pillars.

What Are Mallampati Classifications?

Based on the findings, the patient's Mallampati classification is as follows:

  • Class 0: Ability to see any part of the epiglottis upon mouth opening and tongue protrusion
    • This indicates there will most likely be no difficulty during endotracheal intubation due to the patient's anatomy.
  • Class I: Soft palate, fauces (the area to the side of the uvula), uvula, pillars visible
    • Generally, there will not be any complications performing endotracheal intubation due to the patient's anatomy.
  • Class II: Soft palate, fauces, uvula visible
    • Generally, there will not be any complications performing endotracheal intubation due to the patient's anatomy.
  • Class III: Soft palate, base of uvula visible
    • There is a moderate risk of complications performing endotracheal intubation due to the patient's anatomy, which may suggest there will be difficulty with pre-intubation mask ventilation.
  • Class IV: Soft palate not visible at all
    • Complications are likely to occur during endotracheal intubation and should be anticipated. This may also suggest there will be difficulty with pre-intubation mask ventilation.

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Reviewed on 6/16/2020
References
Lamberg, James J. "Mallampati Classification." May 10, 2018. Medscape.com <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/2172419-overview>.

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