What is the role of endotracheal intubation in the treatment of respiratory failure?

Updated: Apr 07, 2020
  • Author: Ata Murat Kaynar, MD; Chief Editor: Michael R Pinsky, MD, CM, Dr(HC), FCCP, FAPS, MCCM  more...
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Assurance of an adequate airway is vital in a patient with acute respiratory distress. The most common indication for endotracheal intubation is respiratory failure. Endotracheal intubation serves as an interface between the patient and the ventilator. Another indication is airway protection in patients with altered mental status.

Once the airway is secured, attention is turned toward correcting the underlying hypoxemia, the most life-threatening facet of acute respiratory failure. The goal is to assure adequate oxygen delivery to tissues, generally achieved with an arterial oxygen tension (PaO2) of 60 mm Hg or an arterial oxygen saturation (SaO2) greater than 90%. Supplemental oxygen is administered via nasal prongs or face mask; however, in patients with severe hypoxemia, intubation and mechanical ventilation are often required.

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