Articles Posted in Tracheostomy

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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.


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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An article back in July in the midwestern newspaper The Columbia Missourian told the heartwarming story of one woman coming to the aid of another woman who was the victim of third degree burns. This story also has lessons for anyone who kmnows someone who suffers severe burns.

Larisa Rudelson never knew Albina Lewis until she went to visit her in the burn unit at University Hospital in Columbia, MO. Both women are originally from Russia and now live in Columbia, so Rudelson understands that being away from one’s home can be very lonely, especially in such a situation that Lewis found herself in.

On February 23, Lewis’ apartment caught fire, and she could not escape in time to avoid being badly injured by severe burns. Her arms, hands, ears and one of her legs were damaged, but fortunately her face did not receive burns as serious as those on her extremities. These burn injuries kept her in University Hospital for more than four months, and recently she was moved to the St. John’s Mercy Rehabilitation Hospital in St. Louis.

Surgeries and extended stays at both hospitals have left Lewis and her husband, Craig, with enormous medical bills. But through word-of-mouth, Rudelson heard about Lewis’ accident a few months after it happened. Immediately struck by the fact that Lewis was from Russia, and without ever meeting her before, Rudelson wanted to help.

“I imagined that she is lonely over here, and I felt that I could help by showing support,” Rudelson said at a recent benefit for Lewis that was held at Studio B Dance Center in Columbia. Rudelson began visiting Lewis at University Hospital during her free time, but their interactions were always one-sided–Lewis had to have an emergency tracheotomy which left her speechless.

Rudelson is also connected within the Russian community in Columbia. She spread the word of Lewis’ situation and, soon thereafter, she was not the only Russian who visited Lewis in the burn unit. Russian priests came to visit her, and women from the Russian community gathered to host tea parties in her hospital room.

One of Lewis’ nurses was impressed by the outpouring of support from a community that had never met Lewis before the accident. “They didn’t just come once or twice. They were always coming by to let Albina know that there were people here for her, people that cared about her and were praying for her recovery,” the nurse said.

The nurse also talked about support that she saw from Lewis’ co-workers at ABC Labs. Although Lewis had only worked there for five months, the walls of her room at the burn unit were adorned with postcards and notes from her co-workers. “The postcards were just a nice reminder for Albina that people are thinking about her,” the nurse said.

Monica Logan is one co-worker who keeps abreast of Lewis’ progress. Logan also coordinated with Studio B Dance Center to set up a benefit to help offset some of Lewis’ high medical bills. In hopes to attract patrons to the event, free beginner dance lessons were offered by one owner of Studio B Dance Center.

A varied mix of co-workers, members of the Russian community, nurses from the University Hospital burn unit ICU and complete strangers gathered to help support the cause. Besides a requested donation of $15 from the patrons, there was also a silent auction of more than 30 gifts. Most of the gifts were gift certificates for local restaurants. All of the proceeds from the event were directly contributed to a fund for Lewis.

Lewis is very determined to get her abilities back. Her husband sometimes wakes up next to her in the hospital to find her doing bicycle exercises to make her legs strong again. And though Lewis is still rehabilitating in St. Louis — she had another surgery in July, and it might not be her last one–Logan said that Lewis’ determination gives friends and co-workers hope.