A tracheotomy is a surgically created airway, where an entrance is made into the trachea (windpipe) and a tube is inserted to allow the patient to breath. This procedure is performed for several different reasons including obstruction from trauma or infection, need for improved pulmonary toilet (to allow adequate suctioning of secretions from lung), prolonged need for mechanical ventilation, because of cancer or severe obstructive sleep apnea.
The procedure itself is most often relatively simple and can be performed usually in about a half hour. Most often the patient is asleep, but occasionally for patient safety this is done under local anesthesia. The procedure is very safe with uncommon complications. The most common complications when they do occur include bleeding, infection, tracheal stenosis (narrowing of the trachea which occurs in about 1% of patients that have a tracheotomy for longer than one year), and pneumothorax (very rare complication where the lung collapses necessitating insertion of tube to reinflate the lung). Once a patient has a tracheotomy they will require periodic cleaning of the inner cannula of the tube, suctioning with saline, and also periodic change of the entire tracheotomy tube. This is usually done by the patient, his or her care giver, a nurse or respiratoy therapist. Depending on the reason for the tracheotomy the patient may be able to have the tracheotomy tube exchanged for a smaller one or even removed (de cannulated) when circumstances permit.
If you have any questions about tracheotomies please feel free to give us a call.