by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
A tracheotomy is surgery to create an opening through the neck into the throat. The opening is called a stoma or tracheostomy. It may be temporary or permanent.
A tube called a tracheotomy tube will be inserted into the opening. Air may pass directly through this tube or tubing will be attached to a machine that helps with breathing.
Reasons for Procedure
A tracheotomy is done to open a new pathway for air to move into the lungs. It may be needed in children who have damage or illness to the upper airways from things like:
A tracheotomy may also be done if long-term mechanical ventilation is needed. It lets a child move, eat, drink, and speak while receiving ventilation. It can also lower the risk of breathing in foods and liquids.
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:
General anesthesia will be given. Your child will be asleep.
Description of the Procedure
An incision will be made in the skin of the neck. A section at the front of the windpipe will be removed. A tracheostomy tube will then be fitted into this opening in the windpipe. An inflatable cuff may be part of the tube. It would be used with mechanical ventilation to keep air going into the lungs and not leaking into the mouth. The skin will be closed with stitches or clips.
How Long Will It Take?
15 to 30 minutes
Will It Hurt?
Pain is common in the first few days. There may also be problems swallowing. Medicine and home care can help.
Average Hospital Stay
The usual length of stay is 1 to 5 days. If your child has any problems, they may need to stay longer.
At the Hospital
Right after the procedure, the staff may:
During your child's stay, the hospital staff will take steps to lower your child's risk of infection, such as:
There are also steps you can take to lower your child's risk of infection, such as:
It will take a few weeks to get used to the tube. Physical activity may need to be limited during this time. Your child will need help with daily activities and need to delay their return to school.
Call Your Child's Doctor
Call the doctor if your child is not getting better or has:
Call for emergency medical services right away if:
If you think your child has an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
The Society of Thoracic Surgeons
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Mechanical ventilation. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/procedure/mechanical-ventilation. Accessed September 8, 2021.
Tracheostomy and ventilator dependence. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: https://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/tracheostomies-or-ventilators. Accessed September 8, 2021.
Tracheostomy service. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/tracheostomy/about/index.html. Accessed September 8, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kuenn, MD
Last Updated: 9/8/2021