Endotracheal tubes are typically made of flexible materials, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or silicone. They come in various sizes to accommodate patients of different ages and sizes. The tubes have a curved shape with a small inflatable cuff near the distal end and a connector at the proximal end.
- Cuffed design: The presence of an inflatable cuff helps secure the tube in the trachea and prevents air leakage around the tube. The cuff is usually deflated during insertion and inflated after placement to create a seal in the trachea.
- Pilot balloon: The cuff is connected to a pilot balloon, which allows the healthcare provider to monitor and adjust the cuff pressure as needed to maintain an adequate seal.
- Murphy’s eye: Many endotracheal tubes have a small hole called a Murphy’s eye located just above the cuff. This eye allows for some airflow if the main opening of the tube becomes blocked, ensuring continuous ventilation.
- Radiopaque line: To aid in the correct positioning of the tube, some models have a radiopaque line running along their length, visible on X-rays.
Uses: Endotracheal tubes are used in various clinical scenarios, including:
- General anesthesia: During surgeries or procedures requiring general anesthesia, ET tubes are used to ensure adequate ventilation and oxygenation of the patient.
- Mechanical ventilation: In critically ill patients who are unable to breathe adequately on their own, endotracheal intubation and mechanical ventilation are employed to support their respiratory function.
- Emergency situations: In emergencies such as cardiac arrest, respiratory failure, or major trauma, ET tubes may be quickly inserted to secure the airway and facilitate ventilation.
- Coma or unconsciousness: In patients with altered mental status or reduced consciousness, endotracheal intubation can protect the airway and provide respiratory support.
- Airway protection: Endotracheal tubes may be used to protect the airway in patients at risk of aspiration (inhalation of foreign material into the lungs), such as those undergoing certain surgeries or with impaired swallowing reflexes.