Intubation and Mechanical Ventilation

Intubation and mechanical ventilation is the use of a tube and a machine to help get air into and out of your lungs. This is often done in emergencies, but it can also be done when you are having surgery. Endotracheal IntubationCopyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

  • Call Your Doctor

    After you are no longer intubated and have left the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

    • Difficulty breathing
    • Coughing
    • Signs of infection, like fever or chills
    • Breathing in your food or drink
    • Musical sounds when you breathe, known as stridor
    • You have a persistently hoarse voice

    In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.

  • Definition

    Intubation and mechanical ventilation is the use of a tube and a machine to help get air into and out of your lungs. This is often done in emergencies, but it can also be done when you are having surgery.

    Endotracheal Intubation
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    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

  • What to Expect

  • Reasons for Procedure

    Your lungs help exchange gases in your body. Oxygen is moved from the air in your lungs into your blood, and carbon dioxide in your blood moves into the air in your lungs. This movement of gases is needed to live. If you cannot move air into and out of your lungs, then this gas exchange cannot happen. Intubation and mechanical ventilation is done to help you breathe when you cannot move enough air in and out on your own.

  • Possible Complications

    Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have intubation and mechanical ventilation, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

    • Damage to teeth, lips, or tongue
    • Damage to the trachea or larynx resulting in pain, hoarseness, or difficulty breathing after the tube is removed
    • Esophageal intubation—when the tube is accidentally inserted into the esophagus and stomach rather than the trachea
    • Low blood pressure
    • Too little or too much ventilation
    • Pneumonia
    • Lung injury/collasped lung
    • Infection

    Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

    • Smoking
    • Neck or cervical spine injury

    • Pre-existing lung disease such as
      emphysema
    • Poor condition of teeth
    • Recent meal
    • Dehydration
    • Diseases that cause muscle weakness such as myasthenia gravis
    • Obesity

    Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the procedure.