Updated 18 September 2014

What is a tracheotomy?

A tracheotomy is a surgical procedure in which an incision is made in the front of the patient's neck and a breathing tube is inserted through a hole into the trachea.

A tracheotomy is a surgical procedure where an incision is made in the front of the patient's neck and a breathing tube (trach tube) is inserted through a hole, called a stoma, into the trachea (windpipe).

Rather than breathing through the nose and mouth, the patient will now breathe through the trach tube. This is often performed when patients have had maxillofacial injuries, or inflammation of the head and neck, or tumours in the head or neck. Patients who have had a tracheotomy are usually placed on a ventilator.

The tracheotomy tubes are usually removed as soon as possible. However, there may be some patients who may be required to keep a trach tube indefinitely in order to keep the breathing passage open.

In addition, because the trach tube re-routes all or some of the exhaled air away from the vocal cords, the patient may find it difficult to speak.

Complications that may arise from having a tracheotomy performed, include injury to great vessels, mucus plugging, respiratory arrest or swelling, to name but a few.

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