tracheostomy (say "trayk-ee-AW-stuh-mee") is surgery to put a breathing tube
directly into your windpipe (trachea). This tube helps you breathe when
something is making it difficult or impossible to breathe through your nose or
mouth. For example, it may be done if you have throat cancer, a lung or nerve
problem, or something blocking your airway, or if you injured your mouth or
neck. The terms tracheostomy, tracheotomy, and "trach" (say "trayk") are all
used to talk about the surgery itself and the opening created by the
You may need a trach for a short time. Or you may need a
During the surgery, the
doctor makes a few small cuts (incisions) to create an opening in your neck.
Then the doctor puts a breathing tube through the opening and into your
trachea. This tube, called a tracheostomy or trach tube, 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 left
open or it may be made smaller around the tube with stitches or clips. If you
no longer need the tube, the doctor will remove it, and 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 do not feel pain. The surgery lasts about 30 minutes.
surgery, you will stay in the hospital until it is safe to go home. In some
cases, the trach tube can be removed before you go home. But in many cases, you
will need to go home with the trach tube still in place.
may be sore and you may have trouble swallowing for a few days after surgery.
It will also 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 with your trach tube, either by closing the tube with your finger or by
adding a special one-way valve to the trach tube. You may also be able to use
speaking devices to help you talk. When you speak, your voice may sound deeper
and scratchier than normal.
You can expect to feel better each
day, but it may take at least 2 weeks to adjust to living with your trach.
After a few weeks, you may be able to return to work or your normal routine.
This will depend on the type of work you do, your employer, your ability to
speak, how you feel, and other health problems you may have. Some people are
not able to return to their previous job or routine.
tube may be sewn or tied to your skin. If you have stitches, the doctor will
remove them about 1 week after your surgery. He or she may also take out your
original tube and put in a new tube 5 to 10 days after surgery.
you go home with your trach tube, it is very important to take good care of it.
Caring for your trach helps prevent infections and helps keep you breathing
easily. Your doctor will teach you how to take care of your trach at
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 or nurse call line 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.
Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed
Enter M644 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About Tracheostomy Surgery."
Current as of:
July 29, 2016
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
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