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Intubation: What Is Intubation and Why Is It Done?

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Updated April 10, 2014

endotracheal tube for intubation during general surgery

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Definition: Intubation is the process of inserting a tube, called an endotracheal tube, into the mouth and then into the airway. This is done so that a patient can be placed on a ventilator to assist with breathing.

In some cases, if the mouth or throat is being operated upon, the tube is threaded through the nose instead of the mouth, which is called a nasal intubation, which is then threaded into the airway. This is done to keep the mouth empty and allow the surgery to be performed.

Intubation is required when general anesthesia is given. The anesthesia drugs paralyze the muscles of the body, including the diaphragm, which makes it impossible to take a breath without a ventilator.

More Information: All About Anesthesia

Pronunciation: in-too-bay-shun
Also Known As: ET tube, breathing tube, ventilation, intubated, intubate,
Common Misspellings: entubation, inntubation, intoobation, intobation, entobation, intubasion,
Examples:
The intubation was performed and then the surgery began.
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