An Endotracheal or breathing Tube is a plastic tube used during mechanical ventilation, a procedure to assist a patient in breathing. One end of the breathing (endotracheal) tube is placed into the windpipe (trachea) through the mouth or nose. This is called intubation. The other end of the tube is connected to a breathing machine (mechanical ventilator).
How Does It Work?
The breathing tube provides a pathway for oxygen to move from the breathing machine to the lungs. Nurses secure the breathing tube with tape or a plastic device. Because the breathing tube passes through the vocal cords the patient will not be able to speak while the Endotracheal Tube is in position.
How Long Will It Be Used For?
Endotracheal tubes are used only for a short time until patients can breath on their own. The removal of an ETT is called extubation. If the patient needs a breathing tube for a long period of time, the doctor may want to put a tracheostomy tube in the patient's neck. The tracheostomy tube is usually more comfortable than an endotracheal tube.
The image of an endotracheal tube was sourced from this website.
Are There Any Complications?
All Intensive Care interventions and procedures carry a degree of potential risk even when performed by skilled and experienced staff. Please discuss these issues with the medical and nursing staff who are caring for the patient.
Please note translations are based on a previous version of this page.
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The information contained on this page is general in nature and therefore cannot reflect individual patient variation. In addition it reflects Australian intensive care practice which may differ from other countries. It is meant as a back up to specific information which will be discussed with you by the Doctors and Nurses caring for your loved one. ICCMU attests to the accuracy of the information contained here BUT takes no responsibility for how it may apply to an individual patient. Please refer to the full disclaimer.
Endotracheal Tube Version 1.2
First published June 2004
Reviewed November 2011
Reviewer Kay Johnson CNS ICCMU