Have you seen people with tubes sticking out of their neck and felt sorry for them? They have had tracheostomy. A simple procedure that has helped them breathe easy.

Most of us would not even have heard of this procedure, but it is probably one of the most common procedures that is performed in order to help someone with severe respiratory problem. Sounds familiar? Must be, because it is not as uncommon as it sounds!

So let us learn a bit more about this procedure.

What is Tracheostomy?

Tracheostomies are done for numerous reasons associated with blocked airways or needs for extended respiratory or ventilator support. During a tracheostomy, a tube is inserted into the windpipe to open the constricted airway and assist breathing.

As a medical procedure, tracheostomy can either be temporary or permanent. During this procedure, an opening is created in the neck and the tube is the placed into the patient’s windpipe. A cut is made in the neck below the vocal cords and the tube is inserted through this. This tube lets the air enter the lungs. Thus breathing is facilitated through the tube, bypassing the nose, mouth and throat which are the normal breathing pathway.

Why Tracheostomy?

The most common reason for performing a tracheostomy is obstruction of the respiratory tract in which breathing becomes difficult through the nose or the mouth. Sometimes it is also done as an emergency procedure or surgery when the airway is blocked for medical reasons.Certain diseases make it difficult or sometimes near impossible to breathe, then tracheostomy is the only alternative to enable breathing.

Tracheostomy may be performed due to:

  • Anaphylaxis (a serious, life-threatening allergic reaction)
  • Birth defects of the airway
  • burns of the airway from inhalation of corrosive material
  • Tumors of the neck
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Coma
  • Diaphragm dysfunction
  • Facial burns or surgery
  • Infection
  • Injury to the larynx
  • 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

(Source: Health line)

How a Tracheostomy is done

Preferably general anesthesia is given, but in emergency and malignancies, the procedure is done under local anesthetics. A cut going through the cartilage rings of the outer wall of the trachea or the windpipe is at first made into the neck just below the Adam’s apple. Then the hole is widened so that the tracheostomy tube can be fit inside.

Since this is a new thing for the patient, the doctor keeps the patient informed about how to care for the tube by oneself.

Getting used to the Tube

It normally takes one to three days to become accustomed to breathing through a tracheostomy tube. It takes some practice to talk or even make sounds because of the tube. The reason is that air is not passing through the voice box. Some people cover the tube to help them talk.

Tracheostomy Risks

For any medical procedure where the skin is torn there is a risk of infection, bleeding, vocal cord palsy, tracheal tube obstruction and displacement. Sometimes there could be an allergic reaction to anesthesia and risk to the thyroid.

 Home Care for Tracheostomy

It is essential to understand Homecare for tracheostomy since the person who is taking care should have a fair idea of the processes involved. It is important to clean the tube and the skin around the stoma in order to prevent infection. The hands should be sterilized with soap and water before cleaning. The skin around the stoma needs to be cleaned at least twice a day with a 50:50 mixture of sterile water and hydrogen peroxide.

It is a very simple procedure, but would be safer and better if done by professionals rather than by amateurs since it could cause discomfort to both the patient and the caregiver. That is why at One Life Home Healthcare, we have the best service providers whose expertise in the treatment of patients make it a relaxing process for all parties involved.

Tracheostomy is not as scary as it seems. Though people with tracheostomy have initial difficulty speaking, most can adjust and learn to speak. And yes, they lead normal life as you and I.