Tracheostomy Latest Facts: What It Is and What Conditions Require It

What is a tracheostomy? You’ve most likely heard of this term, however, you’re probably not too sure what it represents. Namely, it can be defined as a hole in the trachea that is made by a surgeon. What’s the main purpose of this hole?



Also known as stoma, this hole replaces a person’s mouth and nose as the pathway for breathing. It is usually intercalated into the stoma to make sure that the hole stays open and enables an entryway into the lungs.

Conditions That Require Tracheostomy

When is this procedure necessary? Typically, doctors will perform a tracheostomy when a person is not capable of breathing normally on their own. Additionally, the procedure is frequently necessary for anyone with the following medical issues which can seriously negatively affect oxygen flow to the lungs:

  • Severe pneumonia
  • Severe stroke
  • Massive heart attack
  • Damage to the windpipe because of the injuries, blockages, or radiation therapy

Sometimes, physicians will try to solve these issues by placing a tube known as an endotracheal tube into the windpipe through the mouth, however, if this doesn’t appear to be a good long-term option, then they will turn to tracheostomy due to the fact that it is a lot easier to manage and more convenient in comparison to the endotracheal tube.

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What Do We Know About A Tracheostomy Tube?

Also known as trach, it represents a tiny tube that’s inserted into the tracheostomy to keep the opening clear. These tubes can be found in various materials and sizes, such as rigid plastic, semi-flexible plastic, and metal.

Furthermore, these tubes can be either reusable or disposable. Some of them may come with an inner cannula that is also either reusable or disposable. Moreover, tracheostomy tubes sometimes have a cuff, and sometimes they don’t.

Namely, cuffed trach tubes are typically utilized for people who are dealing with swallowing problems, or for the ones who are getting mechanical ventilation. On the other hand, tubes that do not come with a cuff are usually employed to maintain a person’s airway when a ventilator is not necessary.

How do you know which type of tube is most suitable for you? Well, that highly depends on your condition, size, and purpose of the tracheostomy and neck shape. It’s worth mentioning that every trach tube consists of an outer cannula, as well as a neck plate.

Additionally, the flange rests on your neck over the opening. Holes on every side of the neck plate enable you to put trach tube ties so you can secure the trach tube in place.

Are There Risks Associated With a Tracheostomy?

The answer is yes. But that’s because there are always some risks involved when there’s a medical procedure where the skin is broken. It can potentially lead to infection and excessive bleeding.

On the other hand, there’s a chance of an allergic reaction to anesthesia as well, even though that’s something that rarely occurs. However, if you want this procedure to be as safe as possible, then be sure to tell your physician if you’ve had an allergic reaction to anesthesia before. The most common risks regarding a tracheostomy include:

  • Trapped air under the skin
  • A dislodged or blocked tube which may lead to issues with breathing
  • Breakdown of the region around the stoma
  • Scar tissue in the trachea
  • Creation of granulation tissue which represents a mixture of blood vessels and connective tissue, in the airway
  • Damage to the thyroid gland
  • Infection of the trachea, also known as tracheitis
  • Lung collapse
  • Pneumonia

There’s another problem that may arise during this procedure, like erosion of the trachea and a fistula, which represents an aberrant tunnel between two parts of the body, however, this problem happens very rarely. A fistula, may happen between:

  1. The trachea and the esophagus
  2. The brachiocephalic artery (which is the innominate artery of the heart) and the trachea

Individuals who are at greater risk of complications from this procedure are generally babies, people who smoke, and older persons.

Moving On To Recovery

The recovery mostly depends on the severity of your problem. There’ll be patients who will be capable of breathing on their own as soon as the surgery is over, while there’ll be those who may need some help from a breathing machine that’s on the intensive care unit.

Just bear in mind, that your trachea will heal approximately within a week following the surgery. You may notice scabbing and bleeding around the opening in your neck. After a couple of days, your doctor will replace the current tracheostomy tube with a brand new one.

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A patient or their caregivers will be provided with all the essential information regarding removing, cleaning, and replacing the tube when they are at home. All these things must be remembered, especially details concerning cleaning.

Namely, cleaning can prevent a pileup of debris and mucus which can potentially lead to blockage. In some instances, a patient who has received a tracheostomy may no longer need a tracheostomy tube.

In these situations, the only thing that’s necessary is some physical therapy during which a person will figure out how to breathe on their own without using the tube.

Life At Home After Tracheostomy

Once you come home, you will first communicate with other people by writing until your physician provides you with some detailed instructions regarding numerous communication techniques.

What’s crucial to remember is the fact that you’re not supposed to remove the outer cannula unless your doctor allows you to do so. It would be recommendable to utilize tracheostomy covers to protect the airway from different outside elements, for instance, cold air, dust, and many others.

If you’re not too familiar with the tracheostomy covers, then just make sure to talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about them and where to buy them.

Efficient Ways To Keep The Stoma Clean

Before you start checking on your stoma, first ensure that your hands are clean. It would be advisable to check the stoma at least once or twice a day to see whether there are any signs of infection.

What does an infection look like? It normally includes redness, swelling, and awful-smelling discharge, or discharge that you haven’t noticed before. If you notice any of these things that were previously mentioned, then contact your health care provider as soon as possible. If you want to make sure your stoma is properly cleaned, then you should follow these steps below:

  • Employ a mirror so you can easily replace and remove any dressings
  • Slowly and very carefully clean the outer cannula and skin by using a saline solution, along with a washcloth or gauze
  • Do not forget to eliminate any dried mucus or crust

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