A tracheostomy is an incision in the trachea (windpipe). After the incision is made, a breathing tube is placed into it to enable the patient to breathe. It can be performed in an operating room by surgeons, and it may also be performed at a patient's bedside by an emergency medical technician or doctor. In emergencies such as choking incidents or car accidents, the procedure has been performed at the roadside and in restaurants using non-surgical tools. Some patients may have a temporary tracheostomy, and others will need to have a permanent tracheostomy.
The guide below discusses the reasons a tracheostomy may be performed and provides information about the associated preparation, surgical methods, risks, and recovery process.
Reasons The Procedure Is Performed
Doctors perform a tracheostomy so the patient has an air passage for breathing if their airway becomes blocked. It may also be done if the patient's airflow is significantly reduced. Patients with throat cancer, vocal cord paralysis, or other conditions that block or narrow the airway may need to have this procedure performed. It is most commonly carried out in situations where patients require breathing assistance with a ventilator for more than one to two weeks. A tracheostomy may be considered for patients with neurological conditions that prevent the patient from coughing up secretions, and it is generally recommended in instances where suctioning of the trachea is required to clear the patient's airway. Patients preparing for major surgery on the head or neck might have a tracheostomy performed so it is easier for them to breathe during their recovery. In an emergency, this procedure could be necessary if paramedics cannot insert a breathing tube into the patient's trachea through the mouth.
Learn about how to prepare for a tracheostomy next.