Endotracheal Tubes and Hospital-Acquired Infections

By John Macfarlane on April 01, 2019


Patient under general anesthesiaWe expect medical facilities to help us get well, yet numerous errors can occur that lead to further health problems. That’s why our team of Salt Lake City, UT medical malpractice attorneys take doctor, nurse, and staff mistakes so seriously. Hospital-acquired infections and other medical complications from doctor errors should never be tolerated, and negligent parties should be held accountable for their mistakes.

The lawyers of Younker Hyde Macfarlane want to focus on infections from the use of endotracheal intubation. Since intubation is common for surgery, critical care, and intensive care patients, reducing infection risks should be a major priority for hospitals and medical personnel.

How an Endotracheal Tube Is Used

An endotracheal tube (ETT) is inserted into a patient’s mouth and placed in the trachea in order to establish a functioning airway. This assists a patient’s ability to breathe. The process of placing a tube is referred to as endotracheal intubation (EI).

An endotracheal tube is often used during general anesthesia, when a patient is in critical care, and when a patient is unable to maintain a clear airway and/or breathe on their own.

Infection Risk from Endotracheal Tubes

When an endotracheal tube is in place, there is a risk of infection due to its prolonged presence in the patient’s mouth and trachea. This could be due to bacteria already present on the tube from poor sterilization and handling practices. Infections may also be the result of bacteria within the mouth and trachea creating a biofilm on the tube, which could boost the chances of the patient developing an infection.

Intubation Injuries and Infections

The risk of intubation infection increases if the endotracheal tube injures the patient’s mouth or throat as it is being inserted and/or adjusted. These injuries tend to affect the larynx, pharynx, and esophagus, and are often linked to difficult intubations.

How Medical Professionals Can Prevent Endotracheal Tube Infection

Hospitals and medical professionals have different methods available to prevent infection.

  • Identifying a Difficult Airway - Medical professionals who routinely deal with airway management should consider the potential of a difficult airway if certain predictors are apparent. Medical staff can adjust their approach to intubation as needed.
  • Proper Cleaning and Disinfection - When it comes to sterilization of an endotracheal tube, proper practices for cleaning and disinfection must be used. This should be standard for all medical equipment that comes into contact with patients.
  • Suctioning and Drainage - Since patients will face difficulties coughing and clearing mucus from their airways while intubated, it’s important for medical staff to suction and clean the endotracheal tube as needed.
  • Monitoring Position of the Endotracheal Tube - Medical staff should also monitor the position of the endotracheal tube. The the itself or the medical tape/adhesive used to keep in in place may cause sores or irritation that increase infection risk.

Holding Hospitals Accountable for Preventable Patient Infection

When medical personnel fail to protect patients from infection, our attorneys can help. We will seek damages to cover the cost of additional medical care and any other losses associated with the infection. We will strive to ensure the hospital and any medical professionals involved improve their practices to protect future patients from further negligence.

Contact Our Team of Medical Malpractice Attorneys

For more information about your legal rights and options after a hospital error, be sure to contact our team of medical malpractice lawyers. The legal team of Younker Hyde Macfarlane is here to help. You can reach our office by phone at (801) 335-7025.

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