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What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

What is Tracheotomy?

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. It 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.

In an emergency, a cricothyroidotomy may be done. This type of airway should only be used temporarily. If the airway will be needed for more than 48 hours, a standard tracheotomy will be done.

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A tracheotomy is used to create an open airway. It is done to restore normal breathing in the following situations:

  • The airway is obstructed at or above the level of the larynx (voice box), due to:
  • Trauma to the neck area
  • Obstructing tumors in the upper airway
  • Respiratory failure requiring long-term mechanical breathing assistance, as in these cases:
  • Spinal cord injury in the neck area
  • Severe lung infection or inflammation
  • Injury to the respiratory tract due to breathing in smoke or steam or inhaling corrosive substances
  • Birth defects of the trachea or larynx
  • Foreign object blocking the trachea or larynx

Possible Complications

If you are planning to have a tracheotomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Damage to the vocal cords, vocal cord nerves, or esophagus
  • Damage to the lungs
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Tracheostomy tube displacement or damage
  • Scarring at the site of operation leading to closure of the tracheostomy

Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

  • Age: infants and elderly adults
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Poor nutrition
  • Recent illness, especially an upper-respiratory infection
  • Alcoholism
  • Long-term illnesses
  • Use of certain prescription and nonprescription drugs

Call Your Doctor

After you leave the hospital,...