Tracheostomy

October 3, 2012

It is a surgical procedure, in which a hole is created through the front of the neck and into the windpipe (trachea). A breathing tube (trach tube) is placed directly into the trachea through the opening to help the patient with breathing and to remove secretions from the lungs.

The condition that necessitated tracheostomy and the overall health of the patient will determine how long the tracheostomy will stay. A tracheostomy is usually temporary but some patients may need them for a longer period of time or even permanently.

Patients of all ages may need tracheostomy. It can be done on an emergency basis such as when there is trauma to the neck or on an elective basis. The type of anesthesia used for the procedure is general anesthesia.

Indications:

Among the conditions that tracheostomy may be used for:

  • Airway injuries from smoke, steam or chemical burns.
  • Congenital (inherited) abnormality of the larynx or trachea.
  • Neck cancers that affect breathing.
  • Severe face or neck injury.
  • Severe allergic reactions or infection.
  • Airway blocked by a large object.
  • Spinal cord injuries.
  • Long-term coma.
  • Patients who need to be on ventilators (see Mechanical Ventilator part I, II) for more than 1-2 weeks.

Risks associated with tracheostomy may include:

  • Risks related to anesthesia such as reactions to medication.
  • Risks related to surgery such as bleeding and infection.
  • Scarring of the trachea.
  • Blockage of the tracheostomy from dried secretions and mucous.
  • Nerve damage.
  • Failure of the closure of tracheostomy after the removal of tube.

A therapist will work with the patient once the tracheostomy is mature to regain the ability to swallow normally. Some patients may need swallowing tests to make sure that they can swallow safely before starting normal swallowing. During the period where the tracheostomy is maturing, patients will be fed by other methods such as through a vein or through a tube that goes through the mouth or nose to the stomach.

As for talking, a speech therapist will work with the patient after the maturity of the tracheostomy to help him/her to use his/her voice clearly; one of the options is to use a speech valve that is attached to the tracheostomy tube.

When there is no longer a need for tracheostomy (temporary one), the tube will be removed eventually and healing will occur leaving a minimal scar.

Some Patients will be discharged home having a tracheostomy, they and their families will be taught how to take care of their tracheostomies at home. These patients should adhere to the safety precautions that they were taught such as exposure to water. It is recommended that a tracheostomy opening be covered by a loose covering when the patient is outdoors.

This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.

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