Intubation: What Is Intubation and Why Is It Done?

What Happens During Intubation For Surgery

Mature female patient on respiratory ventilator in intensive care unit
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Intubation Explained

Intubation is the process of inserting a tube, called an endotracheal tube, through the mouth and then into the airway. This is done so that a patient can be placed on a ventilator to assist with breathing. The tube is then connected to a ventilator, which pushes air into the lungs to deliver a breath to the patient. 

Nasal Intubation

In some cases, if the mouth or throat is being operated upon, the tube is threaded through the nose instead of the mouth, which is called a nasal intubation.

 The tube goes into the nose, down the back of the throat and into the upper airway.  This is done to keep the mouth empty and allow the surgery to be performed.

When Intubation Is Necessary

Intubation is required when general anesthesia is given. The anesthesia drugs paralyze the muscles of the body, including the diaphragm, which makes it impossible to take a breath without a ventilator. Most patients are extubated, meaning the breathing tube is removed, after surgery.  If they patient is very ill, or having difficulty breathing on their own, they may remain on the ventilator a longer period of time. 

Intubation is also performed for respiratory failure.  There are many reasons why a patient may be too ill to breathe well enough on their own.  If the patient cannot take in enough oxygen on their own, a ventilator may be necessary until they are once again strong enough to breathe without assistance.

More Information: All About Anesthesia

Pronunciation: in-too-bay-shun

Also Known As: ET tube, breathing tube, ventilation, intubated, intubate,

Common Misspellings: entubation, inntubation, intoobation, intobation, entobation, intubasion,

Examples: The intubation was performed and then the surgery began.

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