A tracheostomy is surgery to help you breathe when something is
making it difficult or impossible to breathe. For example, it may be done if
you have throat cancer, a lung or nerve problem, or something blocking your
The terms tracheostomy,
tracheotomy, and "trach" (say "trayk") are all used to talk about the surgery
itself and the opening created by the surgery.
The doctor makes a small cut (incision) to create an opening in your neck. Then
the doctor puts a breathing tube through the opening and into your windpipe
(trachea). This tube is called a tracheostomy or trach tube. It makes it easier for
air to get to your lungs. It also helps remove mucus and other fluids from your
After the trach tube is put in, the opening may be made
smaller around the tube with stitches or clips. If you no longer need the tube,
the doctor will take it out. You will have a small scar on your neck that
fades over time.
You may get medicine so you will be asleep
during the surgery. Or you may be awake, but you will get medicine so you don't feel pain.
You will stay in the hospital until it is safe to go
home. In some cases, the trach tube can be taken out before you go home. If not,
you will need to go home with the trach tube. If you go home
with a trach tube, your doctor will teach you how to take care of it.
After surgery, it will feel different to breathe and
speak. Most people get used to breathing through the tube in a few days. At
first, it will be hard to make sounds or to speak. Your doctor or a speech
therapist can help you learn to talk. This is done by closing the
tube with your finger or by adding a special one-way valve to the trach
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and
call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your
test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Surgery can be
stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.
Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed
Enter N571 in the search box to learn more about "Tracheostomy: Before Your Surgery."
Current as of:
July 29, 2016
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
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