What Is a Tracheostomy?
A tracheostomy is a medical procedure — either temporary or permanent — that involves creating an opening in the neck in order to place a tube into a person’s windpipe. The tube is inserted through a cut in the neck below the vocal cords. This allows air to enter the lungs. Breathing is then done through the tube, bypassing the mouth, nose, and throat. A tracheostomy is commonly referred to as a stoma. This is the name for the hole in the neck that the tube passes through.
Why a Tracheostomy Is Performed
A tracheostomy is performed for several reasons, all involving restricted airways. It may be done during an emergency when your airway is blocked. Or it could be used when a disease or other problem makes normal breathing impossible.
Conditions that may require a tracheostomy include:
- birth defects of the airway
- burns of the airway from inhalation of corrosive material
- cancer in the neck
- chronic lung disease
- diaphragm dysfunction
- facial burns or surgery
- injury to the larynx or laryngectomy
- injury to the chest wall
- need for prolonged respiratory or ventilator support
- obstruction of the airway by a foreign body
- obstructive sleep apnea
- paralysis of the muscles used in swallowing
- severe neck or mouth injuries
- vocal cord paralysis