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What Are the Different Types of Intubation Tubes?

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  • Written By: T. Broderick
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2016
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As there are different types of intubation, unique sets of intubation tubes exist for these procedures. Trachael intubation, inserting a tube down the windpipe, uses a variety of tubes depending on whether the tube goes down the throat or through the nasal passage. The smallest set of tubes is required for a medical procedure known as a tracheotomy. Other tubes are necessary when accessing the stomach.

Intubation is the process of inserting a tube into the body in order to add or remove fluids or air. Physicians use the procedure in situations ranging from routine surgery to emergency medicine. No matter the type of intubation being performed, intubation tubes are made of plastic. Plastic is the preferred material due to its flexibility and relatively cheap cost; most if not all intubation tubes in modern hospitals are thrown away after first use.

The most common intubation tubes are those used during tracheal intubation. These, along with all intubation tubes, come in a variety of sizes to accommodate everyone from premature infants to morbidly obese adults. Most of the tubes for trachael intubation have a guiding bulb on the leading end to provide a smooth edge during the insertion process. Once the tube is in place, the physician pulls a wire at the top of the tube, pulling out the bulb. After insertion, the physician connects the tube to a mechanical ventilator.

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The tracheotomy tube is the smallest of all intubation tubes. After a physician makes a cut into the trachea through the neck, he or she inserts a small tube into the windpipe. The procedure is necessary for many medical conditions such as a severe injury to the face or allergic reaction. After the procedure, a patient can either breathe through the tube on his own or a physician can connect the tube to a ventilator.

A separate set of tubes exist for gastrointestinal intubation. One of the most common is the nasogastric feeding tube. This type of tube, usually very long and thin, is inserted through the nose and then goes down the throat, into the esophagus and finally the stomach. Using one of these tubes, it is possible to feed a malnourished individual such as a small child. If a feeding tube is needed as a long-term solution, a physician will insert a larger tube through the abdominal wall and into the stomach.

The Sengstaken-Blakemore tube is a specialized form of a gastrointestinal intubation tube. A physician will insert the tube if a patient presents with esophageal bleeding. Once inserted, the physician can inflate one of two balloons. Inflated balloons stop bleeding by applying pressure.

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