It is a medical procedure in which a tube is placed into the trachea to open the airway, remove blockages and to provide oxygen, medication or anesthesia. It may be attached to a machine called a respirator that will breathe for the patient while the tube is still in place. Airway control and mechanical ventilation are often necessary in the treatment of severe burn injuries.
Swelling in the upper airway is a major concern in any person with a burn injury. Swelling may lead to acute respiratory insufficiency, in children the airway is smaller therefore they are more prone to develop airway obstruction from burn. Swelling and damage to the airway may be caused by inhalation of the gases and fumes caused by combustion and/or the effect of heat on the tissue (see smoke inhalation). The extent of the damage to the airways is not directly related to the severity of skin burns and in some cases it may become the greatest therapeutic problem in a gravely burned patient.
Although obstruction of the upper airways caused by edema (swelling of the tissue) may happen acutely, it may not be present until the edema is sufficient enough to produce clinical evidence of impaired airway patency which may take 12-18 hours. Therefore it is important to monitor the patient for any difficulty in respiration even though the patient may not have any problems initially.