Tracheotomy is the surgical creation of an opening from the outside of the neck into the windpipe. Usually a tracheostomy tube is then inserted into the opening to allow for normal breathing.
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A tracheotomy is done to bypass obstructions in the upper airway 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.
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 small incision will then be made in front of the windpipe between the cartilage. 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.
Tracheostomy tubes need to be cared for on a regular basis. The hospital staff will teach you how to care for your tracheostomy tube. It is important follow the staff’s instructions to prevent infection and airway obstruction. Other specialists will help you adjust to the tracheotomy and learn how to speak and eat with the tracheostomy.
Tracheostomy tube care considerations include:
It is important for you to monitor your recovery after you leave the hospital. Alert your doctor to any problems right away. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
Call for emergency medical services right away if:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Lung Association
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute
Canadian Medical Association
The Lung Association
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 August 29, 2017.
Tracheostomy. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/trach. Updated December 9, 2016. Accessed August 29, 2017.
Tracheostomy in Adults. American Thoracic Society website. Available at: https://www.thoracic.org/patients/patient-resources/resources/tracheostomy-in-adults-1.pdf. Accessed August 29, 2017.
Tracheostomy tube replacement. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T909881/Tracheostomy-tube-replacement. Accessed August 29, 2017.
What is a tracheostomy? Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/tracheostomy/about/what.html. Accessed August 29, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
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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