Endotracheal intubation is a medical procedure in which a tube is placed into the windpipe (trachea) through the mouth or nose. In most emergency situations, it is placed through the mouth.
Whether you are awake (conscious) or not awake (unconscious), you will be given medicine to make it easier and more comfortable to insert the tube. You may also get medicine to relax.
The provider will insert a device called a laryngoscope to be able to view the vocal cords and the upper part of the windpipe.
If the procedure is being done to help with breathing, a tube is then inserted into the windpipe and past the vocal cords to just above the spot above where the trachea branches into the lungs. The tube can then be used to connect with a mechanical ventilator to assist breathing.
Endotracheal intubation is done to:
The procedure is most often done in emergency situations, so there are no steps you can take to prepare.
You will be in the hospital to monitor your breathing and your blood oxygen levels. You may be given oxygen or placed on a breathing machine. If you are awake, your health care provider may give you medicine to reduce your anxiety or discomfort.
The outlook will depend on the reason the procedure needed to be done.
Reviewed By: Jesse Borke, MD, FACEP, FAAEM, Attending Physician at FDR Medical Services/Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Buffalo, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.