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Intubation is placing a tube in your throat to help move air in and out of your lungs. Mechanical ventilation is the use of a machine to move air in and out of your lungs.
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Many different injuries or illnesses can make it difficult for you to breathe. If you cannot move enough air in and out of your lungs you will need support. This is often an emergency.
It may also be used as support during surgery. Anesthesia medicine can suppress breathing. Ventilation will support your breathing until medicine has worn off.
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
When possible talk to your doctor about these risks before the procedure.
If your intubation and mechanical ventilation is being performed along with surgery and is planned:
It will usually require:
Other options include:
First, you will wear an oxygen mask for two to three minutes. This will boost the oxygen in your body.
Your head will be tilted back slightly. A scope with a handle, light, and a smooth dull blade will be used. This tool opens the airways so the doctor can see deep in the throat. One end of a breathing tube will be passed through the airway. It will be passed into your lower windpipe.
When the tube is in position, the scope will be removed. The tube will be secured. The doctor will check to make sure air can move into both lungs.
A flexible tube will be attached to the breathing tube. The flexible tube is connected to the ventilator. This machine will move air in and out of your lungs. It can adjust how quickly and how deeply you breathe. Some ventilation can be done with a tube inserted through the nose instead of the mouth.
Right after the procedure, your doctor will:
It will take less 5 minutes to put the breathing tube in. Your time on the ventilator will depend on your needs.
Anesthesia will prevent pain during the procedure. The tube will cause some discomfort. It may also make you cough.
You may have a sore throat after the tube is removed. It should pass in a few days.
The length of stay will depend on why you needed support.
You will not be able to eat, drink, or talk until the tube is removed. You will receive extra help from your care team.
The tube will be removed if:
A tracheotomy may be needed if you need support for more than a few weeks. This is an opening made in the front of your neck.
It is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Lung Association
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
Mechanical ventilation. Anaesthesia & Intensive Care website. Available at: http://www.aic.cuhk.edu.hk/web8/mech%20vent%20intro.htm. Accessed August 29, 2018.
Mechanical ventilation. American Thoracic Society website. Available at: http://www.thoracic.org/patients/patient-resources/resources/mechanical-ventilation.pdf. Accessed August 29, 2018.
Explore ventilator/ventilator support. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/vent. Accessed August 29, 2018.
Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD Last Updated: 8/29/2018