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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.



Endotracheal intubation is done to:

  • Keep the airway patent.

  • Support breathing in certain illnesses, such as pneumonia, emphysema, heart failure, collapsed lung or severe trauma.

  • Remove blockages from the airway.

  • Allow the provider to get a better view of the upper airway.

  • Protect the lungs in people who are unable to protect their airway and are at risk for breathing in fluid (aspiration). This includes people with certain types of strokes, overdoses, or massive bleeding from the esophagus or stomach.




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.



Risks include:

  • Bleeding

  • Infection

  • Trauma to the voice box (larynx), thyroid gland, vocal cords and windpipe (trachea), or esophagus

  • Puncture or tearing (perforation) of body parts in the chest cavity, leading to lung collapse 

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