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Intubation Errors / Airway Malpractice

As most everyone knows, whenever doctors need to perform a serious medical/surgical procedures on a patient, that individual will require some sort of ventilation assistance to survive during the procedure. In order to assist a patient's ability to breathe, these doctors will "intubate" the patient. Intubation involves inserting a long tube down the patient's trachea (airway) that is connected to a ventilator. The ventilator acts as the "lungs" for the patient during the procedure. Although a very common occurrence, the act of intubation is actually very complicated, complex and fraught with potentially dangerous complications that could lead to severe, life-threatening (or altering) complications.

Placement/Removal Injuries to the Trachea / Esophagus / Vocal Cords / Nerves

For starters, sometimes the doctor who is placing the tube in the trachea injures it while the tube is being placed or removed. This occurs despite the very thorough guidelines and protocols that these doctors have developed and years of training that they have undergone. Injuries to the trachea itself are often perforations of the delicate tissue that lines the trachea or even punctures of the trachea. Naturally, these injuries can be quite painful and require surgical intervention to repair. In addition to the injury to the trachea itself, intubation procedures have been known to cause other types of injuries such as vocal cord paralysis, perforated esophagus, injuries to the lip, mouth or teeth, nerve damage or infections.

Improper Placement of Tube / Dislodged Tube / Disconnected Tube

More serious complications can occur, however, if the doctor who is placing the breathing tube improperly places it in the patient's esophagus (not the trachea) or the tube becomes dislodged or disconnected at any point during the operation. The standard of care for any placement of an intubation tube is for the doctor to ensure that the tube is not only placed in the right position within the trachea but that it remains there during the entirety of the procedure. This is done by taking intra-operative x-rays of the tube's placement following the placement and/or during the procedure to ensure that it is securely within the trachea. In addition, anesthesiologists and other health care providers must carefully monitor the patient's oxygenation levels (oxygen saturation levels) to ensure proper amounts of oxygen are circulating through the patient's lungs and body. If the tube is not placed properly and/or becomes dislodged, however, the end result is that the patient does not receive oxygen for an extended period of time. When the brain does not receive a sufficient amount of oxygen for an extended period of time, patients are said to have suffered an anoxic (no oxygen) or hypoxic (insufficient level of oxygen) injury to the brain. Patients who experience an anoxic or hypoxic event are at a high risk of suffering a stroke, catastrophic brain injury and/or death.

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