What is intubated vs ventilator?

Recently there have been many misunderstandings regarding intubated and ventilator. Some people have said that these two things are like a curse to a patient when the fact is the patient needing it is likely already in the worst condition. Such a dilemma or commotion exists during the pandemic of COVID-19 when people are more likely to see or hear the word “ditidurkan”. Up till now, many people are still on the fence with the word and likely to not understand or even may never come across with the words “intubation” and “ventilator”.  In this DoctorOnCall’s article, we will learn more on intubation and ventilator, in hope to understand the benefits of the procedure.

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Intubation is a medical procedure that involves inserting a flexible plastic tube down the throat. It is a common procedure seen in operating rooms and emergency rooms. Specifically, being intubated means there is a tube placed inside the trachea or known as the windpipe through the mouth or nose.

Main reason for intubation is to keep the airway open and to assist breathing in those unable to breathe on their own. This is why it is common to see intubation be performed on patients that have had injury or diseases that causes a person to have breathing difficulty. It is also common for intubation to be done on those undergoing surgery as the anaesthesia drugs used during surgery can hold down breathing. Intubation is also common in emergency settings such as emergency surgery or when a person is unconscious. This helps to prevent a person from breathing in liquids.

There are several types of intubation that include nasogastric intubation, endotracheal intubation and fibre-optic intubation. Nasogastric intubation helps to remove air or feed a person. Endotracheal intubation helps a person to breathe. Fibre-optic intubation is a procedure of evaluating the throat or assisting in endotracheal intubation.

Intubation procedures depend on the aim of the procedure and the settings where the procedure is done.

Side effects of intubation include damage to the vocal cords, bleeding, infection, injury to the throat and aspiration. These side effects are uncommon but may be likely in an emergency setting. Mild side effects such as sore throat and difficulty swallowing can be expected but recovery is quick with only several hours to days depending on how long the intubation has been.


Also known as mechanical ventilator. It is a device that supports or takes over the breathing process. It is a device that recreates the process of breathing by pumping air into lungs.

Those requiring a ventilator are those who experience respiratory failure. This means that patients are unable to get enough oxygen and unable to expel carbon dioxide as needed. Among the reasons for respiratory failure are head injury, stroke, sepsis, spinal cord injury and pneumonia. Ventilator is also used for those undergoing surgery who may not be able to breathe normally due to anaesthesia.

There are several types of ventilator which are invasive and non-invasive. Non-invasive ventilator uses a face mask that connects to the ventilator. Two common non-invasive ventilation devices are continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machines. Invasive ventilators involve the tube in the airway connecting to the ventilator machine. The tube can either be intubated or be placed through the incision on the neck (tracheostomy).

Among the risks of using a ventilator includes aspiration, lung damage, infections, atelectasis (collapsed lungs) and vocal cord damage from intubation.

Removing ventilator support is often through weaning which is the gradual removal. Weaning off ventilation may make a person feel a dry throat and somewhat hoarse voice but this should improve as time goes by.

In essence, intubation is a common procedure that is commonly done to aid with breathing. Intubation is often done before the tube is connected to the ventilator. Ventilation through nasal or face mask may avoid the need for intubation which is beneficial in case of exacerbation of chronic obstructive airway disease. Both intubation procedure and the ventilator device may pose risk for patients but it is important to know that both are considered life support. This means that when a patient is considered to receive intubation and ventilator, the patient should receive it in the best manner possible.

Back to the arguments of COVID-19 and intubation with ventilators, there should not be a misunderstanding at the first place if people know the importance of intubation and ventilator in an attempt to save patient’s lives. These two matters are not even something new as it has been practised for decades already. Family or caregiver should give chance for their family member to get intubation and ventilator when it is needed. Yes it can be scary to be thinking what will happen if the intubation and ventilator fails to save their loved ones and not deciding for the patient to get it but would it be more tragic if the patient did not receive the chances they should by getting an intubation and ventilator?