A tracheotomy is the surgical procedure of creating a hole through the front of your trachea. This hole is called a tracheostomy and helps you breathe by creating an air passage when the traditional route of breathing is obstructed or impaired. This procedure may be needed for several reasons.
Some have medical conditions that block or obstruct their airway and require the use of a breathing machine, called a ventilator. Neurological problems, such as paralysis, may make it hard to cough up secretions from your throat. These require direction suctioning of the trachea to clear the airway. Some receive a tracheotomy in preparation for a major head or neck surgery, as they will need assistance in breathing during their recovery. Emergency situations may also arise in which breathing becomes obstructed and a breathing tube cannot be placed through the mouth. In this case, a tracheotomy will be performed.
If you receive a tracheostomy in a planned tracheotomy procedure, you will be given information beforehand on how to prepare for the general anesthesia. Usually, you will be asked to avoid eating and drinking for several hours before the procedure and you may be asked to stop certain medications. A tracheotomy will usually require a several-day stay in the hospital for the tracheostomy to heal.
What To Expect
There are two types of procedures that can create a tracheostomy: surgical or minimally invasive. A surgical tracheotomy is performed in an operating room. A horizontal incision is made through the skin on the lower part of the front of the neck. The surgeon will pull back the surrounding muscle and cut through the thyroid gland to reach the trachea. A small hole is made in the trachea and a tracheostomy tube is placed in the hole. A neck strap is attached to hold the tube in place.
A minimally invasive tracheotomy is performed in a hospital room. A small incision is made in the base of the neck and a lens is fed through the mouth to help the surgeon see the inside of the throat. A needle is inserted into the windpipe to create the hole in the trachea. The small hole is then expanded to create a hole large enough for the tracheostomy tube. A neck strap is then attached to keep the tube in place.
Following the Procedure
After this procedure you will spend several days in the hospital for your body to heal. You will be taught how to care for the new tube, especially how to clean it to prevent an infection. You will be taught how to use a device or new techniques to speak. Air will flow through the hole in your trachea instead of being pushed through the voice box. During the healing process you will not be able to eat; you will receive nutrients through an intravenous line instead.
For most patients, a tracheostomy is temporary. It is simply providing an alternative breathing route until the medical issue causing the obstruction is resolved. Those that require a ventilator indefinitely require a tracheostomy as a permanent solution.
Call Ear, Nose and Throat Surgical Associates, S.C. at (920) 734-7181 for more information or to schedule an appointment.