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Anesthesia

Anesthesia tube down throat during surgery

09/05/2006

Question:

Can this tube damage your throat when its down your throat and then taken out? Will it cause your throat to be scratched for a couple of months after surgery?

Answer:

Yes it can. The procedure is known as endotracheal, or tracheal, intubation. It's usually done when you are already under anesthesia. The tube is normally taken out at the end of the procedure as you awaken. The tracheal tube is usually put into the mouth and passes through the throat, then through the voicebox (larynx) and into the windpipe (trachea). The larynx is quite a delicate structure. About 20-40% of people who have a tracheal tube experience a sore throat afterwards. Usually it's mild and goes away without special treatment over a few days.

Recently there have been studies in which the voicebox of patients who have had routine anesthesia and intubation, without any problems, have been looked at. What has been found is that a surprisingly high number of people have bruising of the voicebox and sometimes noticeable damage to the small cartilages that form part of the voicebox.

It is also possible to scratch the throat (pharynx) during passage of the tube or its removal. I think the a small tear in the lining of the throat or an injury to the larynx might be enough to make your throat feel scratchy for a couple of months. Of course there are many other causes of sore throat, including common or garden viral infections!

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Response by:

Gareth S Kantor, MD Gareth S Kantor, MD
Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University