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Tracheostomy

Alternate Names

  • trach
  • Tracheostomy

Definition

A tracheostomy is a surgical procedure in which an opening is made through the neck into the trachea (windpipe). A tube is usually placed through this opening to provide an airway. This also allows for easier removal of secretions from the lungs.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?

Indications for this procedure include:
  • an abnormality of the larynx or trachea present at birth
  • severe neck injuries or mouth injuries
  • inhalation of damaging chemicals, smoke, or steam
  • the presence of an object that blocks the airway
  • paralysis of the muscles that affect swallowing, which can occur with strokes or neuromuscular disorders such as muscular dystrophy
  • long-term unconsciousness or coma

How is the procedure performed?

If time permits, the person is taken to the operating room. The person will be given medication to make him or her sleepy. Many times, the procedure is done in the emergency department or even outside the hospital as an emergency life-saving maneuver, and there is no time to take the person to the operating room..
The neck is cleaned and sterile towels are applied. A surgical cut is made to expose the tough cartilage rings that make up the outer wall of the trachea. Small sections of two of these rings are cut and taken out, and a tube is inserted.

Sources

Simon, Robert, Emergency Procedures and Techniques, Third Edition, 1997

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