When a patient has difficulty breathing or undergoes certain surgical procedures, they will be intubated. Intubation is when a tube is inserted into a patient’s airway. Often, the procedure is successful and there are no complications. However, in some cases, the intubation process comes with disastrous results for patients.
Intubations can go wrong for several reasons, one of which is inexperience or negligence on the part of a medical professional. Certain factors also put patients at greater risk for intubation complications. Doctors and other medical professionals are supposed to recognize those factors and act accordingly. Unfortunately, there are several intubation mishaps in medical procedures every year.
A Look at the Intubation Process
During intubation, medical professionals insert a tube through a patient’s nose or mouth. It is performed for many reasons, including assisting a patient with a collapsed lung or other respiratory conditions, removing blockages of the airway and opening the airway to administer oxygen, anesthesia or medicine. Providers will often give patients medicine to alleviate pain or discomfort during intubation and to assist in the process of inserting the tube.
Intubations are often performed in emergency medical situations when a patient is critically injured or ill. As we’ll see, the risks for complications increase when intubation is performed in an emergency setting.
What are the Risk Factors for Complications?
One of the biggest risk factors is the weight of the patient. Obesity increases the chances of complications during an intubation. Certain medical procedures also see higher rates of complications during intubation, including childbirth and cesarean sections.
The setting in which intubation takes place also correlates to how risky intubation is. When paramedics perform intubation outside of a hospital, the failure rate increases dramatically. In fact, up to 40 percent of intubations performed by paramedics in certain ambulance systems result in errors.
What Happens When an Intubation Goes Wrong?
A study authored by professors of medicine and health policy found that several errors can occur during intubation, including:
Inadvertent oxygen desaturation
Heart rhythm disturbances
Breathing tube dislodgment
Unrecognized tube misplacement.
When intubation error occurs, there can be several consequences for a patient. Brain, esophagus, nerve, vocal cord and lung damage may occur. After intubation, especially if the procedure is done improperly, a patient might suffer serious infections, bleeding, physical trauma or a collapsed lung. These errors and the injuries that follow can lead to even more serious complications for a patient, including death.
Serious complications after an intubation aren’t always the result of a major, obvious error. In many cases, even minor errors can have massive consequences for a patient. Medical professionals might not notice complications immediately, further placing a patient at risk for serious injury and death.
Intubation is a vital part of both surgical procedures and emergency medical treatment for patients who have blocked airways. It is extremely important that professionals take every precaution before, during and after intubation to ensure that a patient is not harmed by intubation error. A failure to do so can have major repercussions on the patient.
If you or your loved one was the victim of a harmful intubation, or if you have any questions about this topic, you can find out more by discussing it with one of the Georgia medical malpractice attorneys at The Mann Law Firm. We have over 50 years of experience helping people, and we can help you. Based in Macon, we believe that a mistake or omission that happens during medical treatment and leads to a patient’s injury is unacceptable. Contact us to discuss your unique situation by calling 478-742-3381 or by filling out our online form.