Frequently Asked Questions
What does intubated mean?
When your loved one is in the intensive care unit, it can be scary. There can be so much equipment that you don’t understand and often the medical team gets so used to speaking in abbreviations or medical terms it is difficult to follow. When people with autoimmune encephalitis have seizures or lose consciousness, they may need breathing assistance. In order for the patient to be on a ventilator or breathing machine they need to be intubated. This is when a doctor places an endotracheal tube into their airway, also called trachea. The tube in taped into place. Sometimes to protect the skin a thicker patch of protective dressing is put on their cheeks. While the person is on a ventilator, they may be medicated or sedated so they do not try to pull the tube out or breath against the machine.
Most people with Autoimmune Encephalitis are placed on a ventilator because they have seizures or lose consciousness. Once the seizures are controlled and the patient begins to awake, the doctors will test them. Usually the doctor begins by giving less medications that makes the patient sleepy to gage if the patient can breathe well on their own. Once they can breathe on their own, the endotracheal tube (sometimes called ET tube) is removed. The patient may be on oxygen for a while. They are closely monitored to make sure they continue to breathe well on their own.
The patient in this picture is also wearing a protective cervical collar (c-collar). This is because she had seizures that involved a fall. C-collars are used as a safety precaution until tests can be run to confirm no injuries to the neck were sustained during a fall. Not all people with autoimmune encephalitis will need to have one.
Written by: Mari Wagner Davis, RN/AE Warrior