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What is intubation? Everything you need to know

Intubation is a common technique in which a tube is inserted into a person’s airway. Doctors use it to provide medicine or assist a patient in breathing before surgery or in an emergency.

The majority of people recover from intubation without any long-term consequences. It does, however, include some dangers, as does any procedure.

In this post, learn about when doctors use intubation, how the procedure works, and what side effects are possible.

What is intubation?


Intubation is a medical operation in which a flexible plastic tube is inserted into a person’s throat. This is a standard process in operating rooms and emergency rooms all across the world.

Intubation is used for a variety of reasons.

  • opening up the airway to give oxygen, anesthetic, or medicine
  • removing blockages
  • helping a person breathe if they have collapsed lungs, heart failure, or trauma
  • allowing doctors to look at the airways
  • helping to prevent a person from breathing in liquids


Intubation can be done in a variety of ways. Doctors classify them based on the tube’s placement and the objective it is attempting to achieve.

Intubation can be done in a variety of ways, including:

  • Nasogastric intubation: The tube is passed via the nose and into the stomach to remove air, feed, or provide medications to the patient.
  • Endotracheal intubation: Endotracheal intubation occurs when a doctor inserts a tube into the trachea through the nose or mouth to help a patient breathe while under anesthetic or due to a clogged airway.
  • Fiber-optic intubation: When a person cannot extend or flex their head, a doctor puts a tube into the throat to check the throat or facilitate endotracheal intubation.


The intubation method varies based on the reason for the intubation and whether it occurs in an operating room or in an emergency circumstance.

A doctor will usually use anesthetic to sedate the person in the operating room or another controlled setting. The doctor will then introduce a laryngoscope into the patient’s mouth to assist with the insertion of the flexible tubing.

The laryngoscope is used by the doctor to locate and avoid harming sensitive tissues such as the vocal chords. If the doctor is having problems seeing, a small camera may be inserted to assist them.

Intubation is a technique used in the operating theatre to assist a patient with breathing while under anesthetic.

A doctor will listen to the person’s breathing after they’ve inserted the tube to ensure it’s in the right place. The tube is usually connected to a ventilator by a doctor.

The doctor will remove the tube from the person’s throat once the person no longer has difficulties breathing.

A healthcare provider may need to do intubation to save a person’s life in an emergency. It can be a highly helpful procedure for airway management, and it was very valuable during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Emergency intubation is a dangerous procedure that typically necessitates a well-thought-out plan, imaging scans to guide tube placement, and team member job assignment to ensure safe and effective intubation and minimize the risk of adverse outcomes.

Side effects

Intubation may have the following adverse effects:

  • damage to the vocal cords
  • bleeding
  • infection
  • tearing or puncturing of tissue in the chest cavity that can lead to lung collapse
  • injury to throat or trachea
  • damage to dental work or injury to teeth
  • fluid buildup
  • aspiration

If a clinician conducts intubation in an emergency, adverse effects are more likely to occur. Intubation, on the other hand, can be a life-saving treatment in these situations.

The following are some of the mild side effects that may arise after the procedure:

  • sore throat
  • pain
  • sinusitis
  • speech difficulties
  • difficulty swallowing

Pneumonia and trouble breathing are two more serious adverse effects that might develop.

A person may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in rare situations, particularly if they were not sufficiently sedated or psychologically prepared for the treatment.

Finally, there are some hazards associated with anesthesia. Although the majority of people will have no adverse effects from anesthesia, some people, such as the elderly or those who are obese, are at a higher risk of difficulties.

After waking up from anesthesia, many people experience nausea and may vomit. They may also have brief memory loss or confusion.

Before undergoing surgery, a doctor will discuss the full list of hazards with the patient.


Many people get a painful throat and have trouble swallowing right after intubation, but recovery is usually swift, taking anything from a few hours to several days depending on how long they were intubated.

However, if a person develops any of the symptoms listed below after their operation, they should contact their doctor right away because these could be signals of something more serious:

  • a severe sore throat
  • pain in the chest
  • difficulty speaking or swallowing
  • shortness of breath
  • pain in the neck
  • facial swelling

In comparison to a ventilator

Intubation is the process of inserting a tube into the throat to assist in the movement of air into and out of the lungs. Mechanical ventilation is similar to intubation in that it involves breathing assistance from a respiratory equipment called a ventilator. Ventilators are also known as life-support machines by some people.

Typically, healthcare workers may insert a tube into a person’s mouth or nose, then connect the tube to the ventilator. The machine generates positive pressure, which forces air into the lungs, assisting with breathing and keeping the lungs open.

In comparison to a tracheostomy

A tracheostomy is a surgical technique in which a breathing tube is inserted directly into the trachea, or windpipe, through a hole in the front of the neck.

This technique is also known as a tracheotomy, which refers to the incision, while doctors refer to the opening as a tracheostomy. A person can breathe through the tube rather than the nose and mouth because of the incision’s location.

Intubation, on the other hand, does not usually require surgery, and the healthcare team places a tube into the trachea through the mouth or nose.


Intubation is a common treatment that, in an emergency, can mean the difference between life and death.

In most circumstances, a person will recover completely following intubation in a matter of hours to days, with no long-term consequences.

Before surgery, people can ask their doctor or surgeon about all of the possible side effects and dangers of intubation. If a person has any severe or uncommon side effects, they should immediately see a doctor.



Chukwuebuka Martins

Chukwuebuka Martins is a writer, researcher, and health enthusiast who specializes in human physiology. He takes great pleasure in penning informative articles on many aspects of physical wellness, which he then thoroughly enjoys sharing to the general public.