Tracheotomy is the surgical creation of an opening from the outside of the neck into the windpipe. A tube is inserted into the opening to allow for normal breathing.
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A tracheotomy is done to bypass obstructions that are interfering with breathing. The opening is called a stoma or tracheostomy. A stoma may be either temporary or permanent.
A tracheotomy is done to restore normal breathing in the following situations:
If you are planning to have a tracheotomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Your doctor will likely do the following:
Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure, like:
General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep. In emergency situations, local anesthesia may be used. It will numb the area.
A cut will be made in the skin of the neck. A section at the front of the windpipe will be removed. A tracheostomy tube, which will act as the airway, will then be fitted into this opening in the windpipe. The skin will be closed around the tube with stitches or clips.
You will breathe through this tube as long as it is in place. Oxygen and machines to assist breathing will be provided, if needed. A chest x-ray may be needed.
About 15-30 minutes
Anesthesia prevents pain during the procedure. You may have some pain and soreness during recovery. Your doctor can prescribe pain medication to help relieve this discomfort.
The length of stay will depend on the reason for the procedure. Most stays are 1-5 days.
Once a tracheostomy tube is in place, you will experience breathing and vocal changes. It usually takes three days to adjust to breathing through the tube. Speaking is often a larger adjustment. Initially, you may not be able to speak. You will need to cover the tracheostomy hole with your fingers in order to speak so the air going in and out of the tube will not bypasses the vocal cords.
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
You should call for help right away if:
American Lung Association
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute
Canadian Medical Association
The Lung Association
Caring for your tracheotomy. University of Miami Health System website. Available at: http://calder.med.miami.edu/pointis/traccare.html . Accessed September 17, 2013.
Frequently asked questions about tracheotomy and swallowing. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: http://www.asha.org/slp/clinical/frequently-asked-questions-on-tracheotomy-and-swallowing/ . Accessed September 17, 2013.
Tracheostomy (putting a breathing tube through a small hole in the throat). American Thoracic Society website. Available at: http://www.thoracic.org/clinical/critical-care/patient-information/icu-devices-and-procedures/tracheostomy-putting-a-breathing-tube-through-a-small-hole-in-the-throat.php . Accessed September 17, 2013.
What is a tracheostomy? Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/tracheostomy/about/what.html . Accessed September 17, 2013.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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