'Intubation' is the procedure of inserting a plastic flexible intubation breathing tube, or endotracheal tube, into the airways to help a patient breathe. This is done either because the patient is undergoing a surgical procedure or because the patient cannot breathe on his or her own.
Patients receive intubation tubes to allow them to be hooked up to a ventilator, or breathing machine, which will push air into their lungs and keep them breathing.
Sometimes anesthesiologists have to insert a tube into the patient's throat, esophagus, or nasal cavities to keep the patient breathing during a surgery while anesthesia is being administered. During major surgery, anesthesia paralyzes the body and makes the patient dependent on intubation for oxygen.
In emergency situations, the patient may not be able to breath, and doctors or paramedics may need to quickly administer an intubation tube to keep the patient alive.
It is essential that intubation is done quickly and correctly, or the patient could suffer serious consequences ranging from tooth damage to death. If the tube is misplaced, a patient could receive insufficient oxygen and suffer from life-threatening brain damage or cardiac arrest.
Paramedics outside of hospitals have up to a 40% rate of failure of in intubation procedures.
Further, 25% of intubations out of hospitals are misplaced, and 66% of intubations outside of hospitals are inserted into the esophagus
The failed intubation rate in the operating room is 35 in 10,000 cases or 0.035%
In routine general anesthesia, a difficult intubation occurs between 1 and 4% of the time
Morbid obesity increases the chances of a difficult intubation. In the US, approximately 30% of adults 20 and older are obese
The patient will wear an oxygen mask for a few minutes to prepare for the procedure. Unless it is an emergency situation, you will be given medicine beforehand to make the procedure painless.
A doctor will use a laryngoscope, a tool used to move the tongue from the back of the throat and provide visibility.
The doctor will push a breathing tube into the patient's windpipe, and the tube will be attached to a ventilator, or breathing machine, to push air in and out of the patient's lungs.
The doctor will then check to make sure the intubation is working properly. This can be done through a chest x-ray, through listening to the breathing of the patient, or monitoring blood oxygen levels.
If you are receiving a planned intubation, like for a surgery, your anesthesiologist should warn you about eating or drinking the night before the procedure.
Complications of Intubation
If medical professionals are acting too quickly in emergency situations, or are not properly trained in intubation techniques they can seriously harm the patient.
Negligent intubation can result in:
- Brain damage from a lack of oxygen
- Tooth damage from misplaced tubes
- Damage to the esophagus
- Damage to the vocal chords
- Painful recovery
- Puncture or tearing to parts in the chest or throat
- Cardiac arrest
- Nerve damage
- Collapsed lung
- Brain damage
- Acute Repertory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)
If the intubation tube is placed into the esophagus, oxygen can descend into the stomach causing cardiac arrest, ARDS, brain damage from insufficient oxygen, and even death. The intubation tube can also be improperly placed resulting in only one lung receiving oxygen.
Negligent intubation can occur when medical professionals are not properly trained on intubation techniques, use damaged unsanitary equipment, bump or move intubation tubes, or generally fail to notice harm to the patient that results from the intubation process.
Warning signs that something went wrong with intubation after a procedure include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Pain in chest
- Unusual sounds when breathing
Proper intubation is a challenging skill, but one that your doctor should be prepared to perform. There are specific rules and protocols for doctors to following when intubating patients. Straying from these protocols can lead to disastrous results for the patient.
Lawsuits For Intubation Errors and Negligent Intubation In Maryland
Doctors and paramedics must be trained and skilled in intubation techniques so they do not put their patients at risk. As soon as a patient's airway is blocked they are in danger of permanent brain damage. It takes only 4 minutes for permanent brain damage to occur after oxygen has been cut off.
Doctors, paramedics, and nurses should exercise reasonable care on their patients, meaning that any other doctor in their place would make the same medical choices and provide the same level of care.
Negligent complications from intubation include:
- Improperly placing the tube (i.e. placing it in the esophagus)
- Damaging tissue in the mouth, esophagus, or around the vocal cords
- Being inattentive to the patient's intubation, and not noticing a slip, dislodge, or disconnect of the tube
Most medical professionals are highly trained at intubation techniques, and should be able to properly and efficiently perform the procedure. Unfortunately, minor errors in intubation can lead to catastrophic results for the patient.
The lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian are experts at representing medical malpractice cases and are dedicated to providing the legal support you need to have a successful case. When dealing with medical negligence cases, it is beneficial to have a skilled lawyer on your side who knows how to protect your rights. If you and your family are dealing with devastating results of negligent intubation, contact Gilman & Bedigian to discuss your options.