Can someone explain the air tube during general anesthesia?


I’ve heard that if someone undergoes surgery and needs to be put under with general anesthesia, that the doctor will put a tube down your lungs to make sure you get enough oxygen.

So does this mean a person under general anesthesia is incapable of breathing on their own, or is it done as a safety measure?

Final question:

How do doctors know when to take the tube out before a patient wakes up? I’ve never been put under before, but one of my fear has always been to wake up with a metal tube down my throat and get that Matrix Neo experience when he first wakes up in the pod and pulls a giant tube from his throat.

Does this ever happen? How is it prevented?

In: 197

In short, yes, a person under general anesthesia may be incapable of breathing on their own, that’s why they need the tube. After surgery patients are closely monitored; if they have a problem with breathing after removing the tube the doctors will put it back in right away, or do something else to help them breathe.

Mostly it’s simply to ensure you get enough oxygen. Anesthesia can have some effect on the lungs, so they want to be safe.

With some procedures, the anesthesia is mixed with a paralytic. In those cases you can’t breathe on your own, so have the machine do it for you.

In the first case, the anesthesiologist removes the tube at the end of the surgery before it fully wears off. Sometimes they have to wait until you start to wake up. It’s uncomfortable, but not that bad. The tube isn’t metal but slightly flexible plastic, so it’s not as bad as your probably fearing.

Most of the time the doctors try to give enough anaesthesia to make the patient unconscious but not stop breathing. The patient is intubated in order to keep the airways open and to help monitor the breathing but the patient is breathing on their own through the tube. But if too much drugs are given, either accidentally or when performing surgeries close to the diaphragm and lungs, the tube will be hooked up to pumps that can force air inn and out of the lungs. These machines are usually hooked up but not turned on unless needed. When the patient is waking up the first thing that returns is the breathing. When this is noticed the machines are turned off. Some machines are capable of detecting the breath and synchronise their operations with the lungs but for general anaesthesia this is not required as long as you have someone watching the entire time.

As for waking up with the tube installed this is quite normal. Of course it is easier to remove the tube before the patient wakes up but it is safer to do it after. The tube is there just to keep the airways open so when the patient is breathing on their own through the tube it can be left in place until the patient is able to keep their own airways open. And quite often the patient regains consciousness before the nurses notices that they are able to keep their airways open and they wake up with the tube in place. Obviously the patient is able to keep their airways open after regaining consciousness so the tube can normally be safely removed after this.

Anesthesia has three components:

-to make sure you are unconscious

-to make sure you are unable to feel pain

-to make sure you cannot move

Each of these components require a different medication.

To make sure you cannot move, they will give you a medication that prevents muscle contractions.

That means none of your muscles can move, including your lung muscles, and so you cannot breathe on your own. That’s why they put a tube attached to a breathing machine down your throat.

When surgery is over, the anti-muscle contraction medication is the first to wear-off / be reversed.

When the anesthesiologist sees that you are starting to breathe on your own, they turn off the breathing machine then take out the tube. After that they turn off the gas / medication that makes you unconscious and you wake up.

Edit: small correction it seems they turn off everything at the same time but usually would have removed the tube before you regain full consciousness

I am a physician. There are some bad answers here.

First of all, there are many different medications and effects that we call “general anesthesia”, but by and large, if you undergo general anesthesia, your breathing reflex is suppressed. You do not breathe. Furthermore, you have no ability to move, cough, or do anything to protect your airway. If the position of your head, neck, or tongue obstructs your breathing, you cannot correct it. If your saliva falls into your throat, you cannot clear your throat or cough.

Thus, some kind of tube and mechanical ventilation are necessary, or you will die. This is not a “just in case” thing, it is what keeps you alive.

There are types of sedation where breathing is (usually) maintained, and thus a tube is not necessary. These are used for simple, shorter procedures on healthy people, such as reducing a shoulder dislocation. For
most major surgeries, such as those performed on your abdominal organs, you need general anesthesia.

>How do doctors know when to take the tube out before a patient wakes up?

This is a matter of training and experience. The doctor who is trained in anesthesia (an anesthesiologist) is in charge of your medications and your breathing (among other things). They communicate with the surgeon during the procedure. When things are getting close to the end, they start reducing and / or altering the medication so as to be ready to wake up the patient. By their knowledge of the medications they use, their duration of action, and patient characteristics such as weight, kidney and liver function, they estimate when they can get the patient to return to normal breathing, and remove the tube at that time.