A tracheotomy is a surgery to make an opening in the neck. The opening is called a tracheotomy. It creates a path from the outside of the neck into the windpipe. A tube is often placed into the opening.
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Illness or injury can make it hard to pass air through the upper airway. A tracheostomy makes a new path for air to pass through. It is most often done for people who need long-term breathing support from a machine. It may be needed for a short time or permanent. A tracheotomy may be done because:
Your doctor will review a list of possible problems. Some problems may include:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Your doctor will likely do the following:
Talk to your doctor about any medicine you are taking. You may need to stop taking some medicine up to 1 week before the procedure.
General anesthesia will be used. You will be unaware of the procedure. In emergency situations, local anesthesia may be used. It will numb the area.
An incision will be made in the skin at the lower part of the front of your neck. The doctor will then be able to see the windpipe. A hole will be made in the windpipe. A tracheostomy tube will be placed into the hole. The tube will have wings that spread out along the skin. It will be stitched to the skin. A strap will be attached to the wings and placed around the neck to help keep the tube in place.
You will breathe through this tube as long as it is in place. Oxygen and machines to help with breathing will be used, if needed. A chest x-ray may be needed.
About 15 to 30 minutes
Anesthesia will block pain during the procedure. You may have some pain and soreness during recovery. Your doctor can prescribe pain medicine to help.
The length of stay will depend on the reason for the procedure. Most stays are 1 to 5 days.
Tracheostomy tubes need to be cared for on a regular basis. The care team will teach you how to clean and care for your tracheostomy tube. It will help prevent infection and allow air to flow freely.
A tracheostomy prevents you from speaking. There are tools and steps you can take to be able to speak again. A speech therapist will help you with this.
Nutrition will be given through an IV, a feeding tube through the throat, or a tube inserted into your stomach until you heal. A speech therapist can help you begin to swallow food again when you are ready.
The tube may be removed once you can move air through upper airway again. The opening may close on its own or may need to be closed with a surgery.
It is important for you to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems right away. Call your doctor if you have any of these problems:
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
Frequently asked questions about tracheotomy and swallowing. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: https://www.asha.org/practice-portal/professional-issues/tracheostomy-and-ventilator-dependence/. Accessed December 17, 2019.
Tracheostomy. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/trach. Accessed December 17, 2019.
Tracheostomy Care (Respiratory Therapist). EBSCO Dynamic Health website. Available at: https://www.dynahealth.com/skills/t917677-tracheostomy-care-respiratory-therapist. Accessed December 17, 2019.
Tracheostomy in Adults. American Thoracic Society website. Available at: https://www.thoracic.org/patients/patient-resources/resources/tracheostomy-in-adults-1.pdf. Accessed December 17, 2019.
Last reviewed December 2019 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Nicole Meregian, PA
Last Updated: 8/11/2020