Intubation: What Are the Risks?

Monday, 03 Feb 2014 03:53 AM

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Endotracheal intubation is the procedure for inserting tubes in the trachea to open the airway for patients facing difficulty in breathing. The trachea is the airway from the mouth to lungs. In endotracheal intubation, tubes are placed either through a patient’s nose or through the mouth. Placement of tubes through the mouth is often done in the case of an emergency.
 
The tubes used in endotracheal intubation are made of plastic and are called endotracheal tubes. Insertion of endotracheal tubes is done using a laryngoscope, an instrument used to view the upper portion of the trachea below the vocal cords. Through the endotracheal tubes, oxygen, anesthetics, and gaseous medications are administered.
 
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Benefits of Endotracheal Intubation
 
Its primary purpose is to permit air to freely pass to and from the lungs. It helps in ventilating the lungs and removing any obstacle in the passage that may prevent the patient from breathing properly. Only trained persons who can manage any complications that may arise perform the procedure. Some benefits of this procedure are:
  • Helps unconscious patients to breathe
  • Prevents suffocation
  • Prevents obstruction of the airway
  • Protects lungs
  • Allows doctor to properly view the upper airway
Risks of Endotracheal Intubation
 
Similar to any other surgery, endotracheal intubation involves the common risks of infection and bleeding. Other risks associated with endotracheal intubation may include: 
  • Trauma to the vocal cord, trachea, voice box, and thyroid gland
  • Lung collapse
  • Edema
  • Perforation of the trachea
  • Aspiration
  • Bleeding
Common intubation risks may include dental injury, aspiration, pneumothorax, and esophageal intubation. An intubation care bundle is often used to reduce the risks of post-intubation complications. Risks of further complications include adequate respirations if the tubes are inadvertently placed in the esophagus.
 
Further risks of cardiac arrest, brain damage, and death are also present. Too deep a placement of tubes can result in risks of pneumothorax and improper ventilation of lungs. Risks of damage to soft tissues in the back of the throat and vocal cords may occur during the placement of tubes.
 
Some symptoms of intubation risks in patients undergoing this procedure are:
  •  Chest pain
  • Swelling and pain in neck
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Sore throat
  • Subcutaneous emphysema
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