Tracheostomy or tracheotomy is a surgical procedure to open an airway in a blocked trachea, or windpipe. A small hole is created in the neck, and a tube is often inserted into the hole to provide support and drainage. The patient can breathe through the hole that is created.
Tracheostomy is performed for a variety of reasons when a bypass to the normal airway is needed. A patient may have an object lodged in their throat or have an injury that damaged their windpipe. They may have cancer or a swelling in their throat that stops air from moving freely. Sometimes tracheostomy is performed to make breathing easier when patients are paralyzed or have trouble coming off a ventilator.
A tracheostomy can be temporary or permanent. A temporary tracheostomy tends to heal over easily when the tube is removed, leaving a small scar. A permanent tracheostomy can make speech difficult at first. It takes time to learn how to use your throat and air in a new way. Tracheostomy is a fairly simple procedure, but it can make all the difference in a life or death situation.