Endotracheal intubation is a procedure by which a flexible plastic tube (endotracheal tube) is inserted through the mouth down into the trachea (the large airway from the mouth to the lungs).
The purpose of endotracheal intubation is to permit air to pass freely to and from the lungs in order to ventilate the lungs, so it is often done when a patient is unconscious and by maintaining a patent airway, especially during surgery, or when patient is critical and cannot maintain adequate respiratory function to meet their needs.
An endotracheal tube is usually connected to ventilator machines to provide artificial respiration.
The doctor puts the tube down into the trachea with the help of a laryngoscope – an instrument that permits the doctor to see the upper portion of the trachea, just below the vocal cords which hold the tongue aside while the tube is inserted into the trachea.
It is important that the head is positioned in the appropriate manner to allow for proper visualization. Pressure is often applied to the thyroid cartilage (Adam's apple) to help with visualization and prevent possible aspiration of stomach contents.
The procedure should be performed by a physician with experience in intubation because the complications like brain damage, cardiac arrest and death can occur if the tube is not placed in the trachea because adequate respiration will not occur.
Also, if stomach contents are aspirated the result will be pneumonia and ARDS. If the tube is too deep, only one lung can be ventilated and the result can be pneumothorax as well as inadequate ventilation.
Damage to the teeth, the soft tissues in the back of the throat, as well as the vocal cords, can occur during endotracheal tube placement.