Intubation whilst awake.: I have a... - British Heart Fou...

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Intubation whilst awake.

Samazeuilh2 profile image
31 Replies

I have a triple bypass coming shortly and one of the things which I fear the most is being intubated when I have awoken from anaesthetic, i.e. being intubated whilst awake. I’ve heard that this can even induce PTSD in some people. It sounds absolutely terrifying and could be accompanied by hallucinations, AF etc.. Has anyone had experience of intubation whilst awake? What was it like?

31 Replies
ChoochSiesta profile image

I had this in February. I have no recollection of it at all though.

Samazeuilh2 profile image
Samazeuilh2 in reply to ChoochSiesta

Thanks for replying. Do you mean because of the sedative or because of memory issues related to the procedure?

ChoochSiesta profile image
ChoochSiesta in reply to Samazeuilh2

Purely down to the sedative, there were no issues at all thankfully.

Carlg profile image

I had this in July. I have a vague recollection of the breathing tube being taken out. Cannot remember being on it or any pain from it though and the memory seems like a dream.

In turns of PTSD, your body will go through some trama and life will change for a little while. You will have days where you do feel down or struggle. However these days are far outweighed by better days and over time you body does heal and you can do more.

Samazeuilh2 profile image
Samazeuilh2 in reply to Carlg

Thanks for replying. I’ve read that sometimes people have frightening delirium and are in distress because of the ventilator. Did you experience this?

Carlg profile image
Carlg in reply to Samazeuilh2

Nothing like this Couple odd dreams more due to the anthestic

Sljp0000 profile image

I had Cabg x 3 in September. I had the same fears as you. When I woke up I wanted the ventilator out and was gesturing for them to do so which they did straight away. Remember you can breathe ok with it in (obviously the while point). It all feels a bit 'clumsy ' but it's fine. I wouldn't worry about it again. You're so dosey from the anaesthetic that it's all a bit of a blur. Please don't worry, you will be absolutely fine! 👍

dubsta profile image

Hi there, I totally understand your comments. I had a mechanical valve fitted in May and one of the most concerning thing for me was having the breathing tube removed post op. I worried over nothing, due to the medication I remember nothing!

francesw47 profile image


It was one of my fears first time I had OHS in 2014 - did wake with tube in, but (I think) I was then still in recovery room. Must have gone straight out again because next time I woke it was very early morning and the nurse wanted me to have a bed bath and then breakfast! No pain, no hallucinations. Second time was a difficult experience - absolutely no recollection of the ventilator at all but I did have hallucinations from the Fentanyl I had been given. When you read what a powerful drug Fentanyl is, hardly surprising. But, in the grand scheme of things I was not in pain, was comfortable and brilliantly cared for. And as with all memories, I can only remember snatches of it all now, three years later. OHS is not a walk in the park and takes a while to recover from. But the cardiac nursing teams are dedicated teams, highly skilled and so well trained - the care is like none other. Their sole purpose is to get you healed, up and walking and home. You will be well looked after and yes, it does take a good few weeks to begin to feel that you are on the path to recovery. And unpleasant memories fade.

Please let us know how you get on and good luck.

Sewingpumpkin profile image

I had 2x CABG around 3 years ago and exactly the same fears especially as even having a badly blocked nose can make me panic at night.

When I was bought round I really wasn’t aware I was still incubated, only the the doctor calmly saying ‘ I’ll take that out’ to me. I didn’t feel it being removed. I’ve heard others say they do not remember even that part.

Before the operation I did make a point of talking it through with one of the surgeons and I think that helped reassure me.

I hope all our comments will help you and all the best for the operation 🙂

Samazeuilh2 profile image
Samazeuilh2 in reply to Sewingpumpkin

Thank you very much. Did you have any problems with delirium which is apparently fairly common?

Sewingpumpkin profile image
Sewingpumpkin in reply to Samazeuilh2

I had mild hallucinations for a short period of time. A small zebra came to visit me 🤷‍♀️. I didn’t find it worrying and this was definitely due to the morphine, not the incubation. No delirium on my part that I am aware of but I did keep falling asleep, even during conversations.

Try not to worry, being relaxed does help a lot and I know this is easier said than done 🙂

Larneybuds profile image

Hi....this was my biggest fear along with many others on the forum as you will see. Your pain and sedation is so well managed from the start that you don't really have much recollection of anything really. If they needed to leave the tube in it would be because there is a need for it but again, I don't think you would know much as all your meds would be topped up to stop you becoming stressed. To be honest, coming round for me was like part of a dream. I vaguely remember some snippets but it seems like they weren't real anyway....if that makes sense lol. I am sure you will be fine and try not to let your imagination run away to create something you are supposing will happen. Good luck with everything and take care. X

Samazeuilh2 profile image
Samazeuilh2 in reply to Larneybuds

Thank you. Did you have any alarming hallucinations or delirium which I have heard of?

Larneybuds profile image
Larneybuds in reply to Samazeuilh2

I did not experience anything like this. I kept a very positive mindset and just looked to the other side of the op. Again....delirium....anything like this can also be conjured up by anxieties or thinking about things you know nothing about. Ask questions .....your anaesthetist will come and speak to you later usually pre op.... If there is anything you are worried about please tell them. I have heard before that delirium or confusion can be caused by the amount of pain killers you are on. I tried to manage on the least amount after the op, purely so that I could be more alert but everyone is different. Again....good luck....try not to worry....and keep it s updated with progress. X

jayshreepower profile image

I am 75 yrs old male. I had quadruplicate bypass in Feb,2021. 4 1/2 hours operation. Well things were & are alright till today. Surgeon had told me you will go back with 50 years person's heart. Hence, I went for operation with positive mind set. 15 years before the bypass, I had angioplasty with one stent in LAD. I wish best for you.

Samazeuilh2 profile image
Samazeuilh2 in reply to jayshreepower

Thanks. I’m glad things worked out so well for you.

James1338 profile image

Ho Samazeuilh2,

I had an Aortic valve replacement surgery back in February, and was intubated as part of that. To be honest I have some memory of becoming conscious and feeling the tube, however there was a nurse there with me and she was fantastic. I want to stress that it’s only short flashes and it was not bad or terrifying just different. Trust the staff in the ICU they are so good and will be there for you. Wish you the best.


Samazeuilh2 profile image
Samazeuilh2 in reply to James1338

Many thanks.

Steve_G profile image

I had exactly the same concern but have absolutely no recollection at all of the tube being taken out and only vague memories of coming round. The anaesthetic, sedation and post-op drugs work their magic. There’s nothing to fear from CABG surgery - of course, it’s major surgery and it takes time to recover but it is life changing and worth all the discomfort. Wishing you good luck and a speedy recovery.

road2ruin profile image


Like most people on here, I too was aware that I had a breathing tube. However, when I say aware, I knew it, but I just couldn't have cared less. I was semi conscious and recall the staff talking to me. One of them was even asking me if I could breath myself and I remember mumbling I could of I didn't have this tune in my mouth. They shortly after removed it. They told me what they were going to do. The nurse said "I am going to blow a puff of air into your lungs which will make you cough. Then I will remove the tube and vacuum your mouth". During this whole process I knew exactly what was being said, what was going to happen and I still didn't care. There was no discomfort, no panic, no distress....I was just relaxed. This I am sure was all down to sedatives. I do recall though that I couldn't see anything, so my eyes must have been shut the whole time.

No hallucinations for me or anyone I shared a ward with. I too though had heard they were possible, but never come across anyone that has had them. Anyway, the long and the short of it is, you will be fine, they know what they are doing and you will be well looked after.

Good luck


MarmiteB profile image

Hello lovely, this was also my biggest fear!!! I was so worried and I hadn't discovered this site to have 10 people kindly tell me that I'd be OK! I'm 34, had a bypass in January. I remember waking up in the room and the light was amber, it was the evening in ICU. I heard the doctor say "Do you want your tube out"? I nodded and it was gone. There was no pain, no gagging, no coughing, nothing - barely remember it or the feeling of it. If I had posted back before my op I think my post would have been exactly the same as yours. I had it my head that I would be fully conscious, WIDE awake with a breathing tube in, looking about with no nurse in sight...couldn't be further from the truth. When they say you'll be "awake" what they really mean is barely conscious but able to breath by yourself.

In the ICU I was next to a guy who had his CABG straight after me by the same surgeon - so I was about 4 hours ahead of him I reckon. What they do is this... stop the heavy sedative that your on, prod you, shout your name, see if you respond. I remember the nurses loudly saying "GRAHAM! Graham can you wake up for us? GRAHAM! Graham can you squeeze my hand?" and in my head I was going "Good god Graham, wake up mate, I want some peace" 😂😂😂 I think they took his tube out then when they saw a bit of life in him. But my point is this, if you only just by wake up by having 3 nurses and a doctor shouting your name at you, then you are very barely awake!! I think that's why so many people have a recolection of it.

I also remember asking my surgeon about it. And he said the same thing "Oh, you'll barely remember it" but crikey, I just didn't believe him. At all. But, trust us, you'll be post op and think back to this post and be like "huh, they were right!".

In terms of halucinations, I didn't have any and I certainly haven't experienced any PTSD - you must have heard that from someone who was very very unlucky. I have read a lot of the posts on here for the last year and have never seen anything like it. I would agree it's more likely to be the morphine.

I will echo what someone said below will have blue times post op. I am in the super-non-crier category normally...but no, post op, I got so upset about the smallest things. So whilst your extremly unlikely to havbe PTSD you are very likely to have some weepy days.

If running up to the op you have more questions, put them on here, us lot love helping out fellow hearties - that's why we are on here! But if want to pick up the phone and talk to someone, you can ring me. Just message me and I'll give you my number :) Take care xx

Chappychap profile image

I really wouldn't worry.

After the operation you'll be very closely monitored. You'll either be in Intensive Care, which has a ratio of one nurse for every patient, or you'll be in High Dependency, which has a ratio of one nurse for every two patients. And you're wired up to machines with your vitals under constant close supervision. So they know precisely when you're coming around and everything is sorted out with tubes removed in good time.

Regarding hallucinations, yes they're fairly common, both in the immediate post op moments and also for the first day or two afterwards.

Bypass surgery can be absolutely transformative. It removed all traces of my angina symptoms and many others on this forum report similarly impressive results. However, neither bypass surgery nor stents is actually a "cure" for our heart disease. Heart disease is for life and it is a progressive disease, in other words left to its own devices it will get steadily worse. But what bypass surgery can do is give us a precious second chance, a window of opportunity to allow medication and life style changes to slow down the progress of our disease, hopefully to an absolute crawl. But remember, it's medication and life style changes that will keep us safe going forward, not the surgery itself.

A few weeks after discharge the hospital should offer you a place on a Cardio Rehab course. These are invaluable as they give you all the information you need to really understand your medication and the life style changes that you need to make.

Good luck!

CyclingTime profile image

I had it after my quad bypass but they don't keep it in for very long, so don't worry. The pain meds and everything else you will forget about it very quickly.

And this is from somebody who has an absolute fear of vomiting for the same reason s and that was far worse than the intubation

Maythyme profile image


I had a triple bypass back in February. I have to say I remember very little about the actual procedure either before or after. I do vaguely remember coming around and someone saying they were going to remove the tube. There certainly was no gagging or panic on my part but the thing is you are still quite sedated so you really don’t need to worry. You also have to remember these guys are really skilled at what they do and they are doing this everyday.

All the very best with your recovery.

Ravaging profile image

All I remember when I came round was a lovely nurse asking me if I wanted a cup of tea and some toast.I asked her name,she said Sahra,I said then that is what I will call my cwtch

I remember the tube being removed and told to expect to wake with it in place. Within the scheme of things, this is really a minor worry and really have not thought about it since the proceedure 20 months ago. I do acknowledge some people find this a concern and that is why they will be informing you. There was no pain and I was only aware of it ever so briefly as it slipped out. You need not worry too much.

WeaverShaz profile image

There is a set of 4 very useful videos here

explaining the OHS journey. I found the most useful point he made when talking about waking up while intubated was do not panic. It doesn't hurt, but you cannot speak. You will not be alone and you will be heavily medicated. My experience was a little different as as soon as I woke I vomited - seriously, you are NIL for hours and hours, where does that come from?? - anyway the key thing - relax and go with the flow, think happy thoughts and it will be out before you know it.

E16Pat profile image

Hi Ya,

I had the same triple bypass just over 3 weeks ago, when they woke me up I never have tubes down my throat, nothing in my mouth at all, I wishes you the best of luck, I know your mind thinks of all different things, just try to blank these thoughts out of you mind, I was very worried about tubes and pipes in my mouth when I came round but there was nothing, as soon as got into icu my wife phone yo see if I was back from the operation and I spoke to her, try not to over think things, no one was more frightened and anxious than me but they make you feel so relaxed and comfortable any anxiety soon goes

Best wishes


Samazeuilh2 profile image
Samazeuilh2 in reply to E16Pat

Thanks for your kind words, but I’ve gone one better than you ; I’ve had a quadruple! Still very sore when I move, but not much pain when I stationary!

gladliz profile image

My worry would be them putting it in while I was awake rather than the other way round. I even have a 'thing' about swallowing pills, especially large ones. Uggh!

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