What Is the Difference between Intubation and Ventilation?

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  • Written By: Jillian O Keeffe
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 16 December 2018
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Intubation and ventilation are both medical procedures that involve the use of tubes as part of the equipment necessary. Intubation, though, is used for many different purposes, whereas ventilation is specifically to help a patient breathe. Another difference between intubation and ventilation is that intubation can be a single step in the ventilation process.

Various conditions require doctors to perform an intubation procedure. This involves placing a tube into the body through a natural hollow space, such as into the airway. Other common areas of intubation include the hollow tunnel from the nose to the gastrointestinal tract, or the mouth to the gastrointestinal tract. The purpose of the tube may be to insert medicinal substances into a particular area, take samples from suspected areas of disease, or remove substances that are dangerous to health.

For example, in the case of people who have lung conditions that make it hard to breathe, the intubation procedure can help doctors to remove excess mucus and other substances that block the lungs from getting enough oxygen. Often, the crossover between intubation and ventilation occurs when the doctor places a tube into the lungs with one end outside the body in order to use it as a channel for air to get into the body. This may be placed through an incision in the airway itself, or through natural openings such as the mouth.


In common use, ventilation refers to any system that allows the replacement of gaseous substances with new gases, such as fresh air replacing stuffy air inside a building. In a healthy person's body, ventilation occurs when the lungs swap waste carbon dioxide for new oxygen-containing air. Artificial ventilation is any medical intervention that makes this process more efficient in people who are having trouble breathing. As a healthy person uses muscles to contract and relax the lungs to pull in and exhale breath, artificial ventilators need to produce some air under pressure to push the air in and take the waste gases back out again.

Although intubation and ventilation may be included in the same medical procedure, some forms of ventilation do not necessitate intubation. In these cases, the patient does not have to have a tube inserted down through the entire airway, but can receive air through a different mechanism. A mask that covers the face and produces enough air pressure to fill and empty the lungs is one option, but this form of ventilation does not allow the patient to breathe as well if he or she tends to choke on vomit from the stomach.


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Post 2
@Nefertini - That's probably the type of intubation most people think of first when they think of the concept, and when most of us think of ventilation, we think of someone critically injured or ill who is placed on a ventilator to do their breathing for them.
Post 1

If you've ever had surgery, you might have received endotracheal intubation. In this type of intubation, your healthcare providers insert a tube through your nose or mouth and into your trachea. The tube keeps your airway clear during the administration of anesthesia. This type of intubation is also used for patients with illnesses or injuries that hinder their ability to maintain a clear airway.

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