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What Is an Intubation Scope?

By A. Reed
Updated May 17, 2024
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Referred to as a laryngoscope, an intubation scope is a visual device used by a physician to aid him or her in conducting a procedure referred to as an endotracheal intubation. The endotracheal intubation procedure is indicated for respiratory distress or arrest, a condition in which breathing is absent or significantly decreased causing a severe lack of oxygenation to the body’s tissues. Laryngoscopes can either be flexible or rigid and the type used depends on the reason for the intubation.

The chief reason for performing an endotracheal intubation is primarily to open the airway, but it also allows access for removal of an object that has become lodged preventing airway exchange. Frequently, the tube is placed with the objective of administering mechanical ventilation, the use of a medical device that breathes for the patient experiencing severe respiratory problems. In this case, the tube is attached to the device upon its insertion into the trachea.

When the insertion of an endotracheal tube is determined to be necessary, the doctor typically administers a drug for sedation or a numbing agent such as lidocaine in order to relax the patient to allow for easier penetration of the tube through the trachea. The patient is positioned on his or her back with the head adjusted so that the airway opens up properly. Then, using the intubation scope to see, the doctor inserts the tube into the mouth, guiding it through the trachea. Insertion of an intubation tube can be done while the person is fully awake or asleep as in surgery. Alternatively, an endotracheal intubation can be done through the nose as well.

Doctors verify positioning of the tube to ensure that it has been properly placed into the trachea. To do this, the physician may check placement visually by watching the patient's chest rise and fall while listening with the stethoscope. Correct positioning of the tube can also be verified by an x-ray.

An intubation scope can typically come in two different forms: flexible and rigid. Both types have lights and allow for deep visualization inside of the throat, but the flexible scope tends to be better for patients as they are a bit more comfortable during insertion. Rigid scopes tend to be inserted for a more invasive procedure, such as for viewing vocal cord cancer or performing a biopsy, and general anesthesia is administered in this case. The intubation scope can also allow for optimal visualization by projecting the image onto a large screen.

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