Side Effects of Being Intubated

Endotracheal intubation -- a medical procedure that involves the placement of a tube into the trachea, or windpipe, to help unconscious or medically compromised people breathe -- may cause side effects. These may be mild, such as temporary sore throat, or as serious as a collapsed lung.

A medical team is standing next to a patient. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Swelling

Repeated attempts to place the intubation tube within the trachea can damage the surrounding tissues within the mouth or throat. Inflammation caused by tissue damage can result in swelling of the injured body region, a side effect of intubation, referred to as edema. Upon waking, a person who has been intubated can experience a sore throat, difficulty swallowing or discomfort within swollen regions of the face or neck. These side effects of being intubated are temporary and typically subside after removal of the intubation tube.

Aspiration

People who are conscious when intubated can experience gastric aspiration as a side effect of this procedure. Placement of the intubation tube can induce your gag reflex, which can lead to vomiting. If this occurs, vomit can become stuck within the intubation tube and interfere with oxygen flow into the body. Prompt medical attention is required for anyone who experiences aspiration as a side effect of being intubated.

Tracheal or Esophageal Perforation

In certain cases, the intubation tube can inadvertently pierce or puncture the trachea or esophagus during placement. Tracheal or esophageal perforation prevents oxygen from reaching the lungs and can result in internal bleeding. This life-threatening side effect of being intubated requires immediate medical intervention.

Collapsed Lung

Damage or perforation of internal organs within the chest during intubation can lead to lung collapse in certain people. A collapsed lung, also called pneumothorax, can result in additional side effects such as cough, severe, stabbing chest pain, or shoulder or back pain. A collapsed lung is a medical emergency and requires immediate medical intervention to restore the flow of oxygen into a person's lungs.

Decreased Heart Rate

Certain people, especially infants, can develop a decreased heart rate -- bradycardia -- as a side effect of intubation. A decreased heart rate can be accompanied by a decrease in blood pressure, which can cause side effects of headache, dizziness or fatigue.

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