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Tracheostomy

Definition

A tracheostomy is a surgical procedure to create an opening through the neck into the trachea (windpipe). A tube is usually placed through this opening to provide an airway and to remove secretions from the lungs. This tube is called a tracheostomy tube or trach tube.

Description

General anesthesia is used. The neck is cleaned and draped. Surgical cuts are made to expose the tough cartilage rings that make up the outer wall of the trachea. The surgeon then creates an opening into the trachea and inserts a tracheostomy tube.

Risks

The risks for any anesthesia are:

  • Problems breathing
  • Reactions to medications
The risks for any surgery are:
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
Additional risks include:
  • Erosion of the trachea (rare)
  • Nerve damage
  • Scar tissue in the trachea

Review Date: 1/16/2009
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington, Clinic. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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