What Is an Intubation Set?

Mary McMahon

An intubation set contains supplies for endotracheal intubation to secure a patient’s airway. This may be necessary for a patient who is having trouble breathing or is being prepared for surgery, where the airway is controlled to deliver anesthetic gases. Sets contain everything medical professionals need to perform an intubation safely and quickly. They are typically carried on board ambulances and rescue vehicles in addition to being stocked in hospital cabinets and carts so they can be accessed rapidly in the event of an emergency.

Intubation sets include endotracheal tubes.
Intubation sets include endotracheal tubes.

Sets include a laryngoscope with an assortment of interchangeable blades. This device allows a care provider to look into the patient’s airway, which is illuminated with a small light powered by a battery contained in the handle. The blades move structures in the throat aside so the tube can be inserted smoothly. Because throat size can be highly variable, it is important to have a variety of sizes available in an intubation set to avoid injuring the patient.

Intubation is one of the ways that physicians try to ensure that a patient's breathing is not compromised.
Intubation is one of the ways that physicians try to ensure that a patient's breathing is not compromised.

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Tubes for the airway in a variety of sizes, often color-coded for convenience, are also stocked in an intubation set. These include very small tubes designed for neonates, and range up to larger sizes for adults. Guidelines provide rough estimates of the right size to use, and care providers also learn from experience when it comes to selecting the right size in the intubation set. The tube needs to be large enough to get oxygen to the patient’s lungs without being so large it causes injuries.

Other supplies in an intubation set can include forceps, emergency scissors, tape, syringes, and cuffs. These allow care providers to do things like taping the airway in place so it won’t move, cutting away clothing that makes it difficult to provide treatment, and grasping obstructions in the throat so they can be removed. This can be especially important in the field where every second counts and a patient who is not breathing or has difficulty breathing needs rapid intervention to make it to a hospital for advanced care.

In hospital settings, some endotracheal intubations take place in emergency rooms and in other crisis situations. For situations like surgery, an anesthesiologist can supervise the process in a controlled environment to get the patient ready for the procedure. Intubation may also be needed for patients in intensive care who cannot breathe independently and need mechanical ventilation. After intubation, patients may experience some soreness in the throat and may need to practice breathing exercises to regain lung strength and elasticity. Prolonged intubation, like that used in intensive care, can also increase the risk of infections and other complications.

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