Mechanical Ventilation



Intubation and mechanical ventilation is the use of a tube and a machine to help get air into and out of your lungs. This is often done in emergencies, but it can also be done when you are having surgery.

Endotracheal Intubation
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Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Damage to teeth, lips, or tongue
  • Damage to the trachea or larynx resulting in pain, hoarseness, or difficulty breathing after the tube is removed
  • Esophageal intubation—when the tube is accidentally inserted into the esophagus and stomach rather than the trachea
  • Low blood pressure
  • Too little or too much ventilation
  • Pneumonia
  • Lung injury/collasped lung
  • Infection

Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

  • Smoking
  • Neck or cervical spine injury
  • Pre-existing lung disease, such as emphysema
  • Poor condition of teeth
  • Recent meal
  • Dehydration
  • Diseases that cause muscle weakness, such as myasthenia gravis
  • Obesity

Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the procedure.



This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.


American Lung Association 

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America 


Health Canada 

The Lung Association 


Mechanical ventilation. Anaesthesia & Intensive Care website. Available at: Accessed May 29, 2013.

Mechanical ventilation. American Thoracic Society website. Available at: Accessed May 29, 2013.

Explore ventilator/ventilator support. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: Updated February 1, 2011. Accessed May 29, 2013.

6/3/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.