A tracheotomy is a surgical procedure used to make an opening in the windpipe (trachea) to remove an obstruction or allow air to pass through to the lungs. This procedure is performed to relieve breathing problems and is often performed in emergency situations after more conservative attempts have failed.
A tracheotomy may be performed to bypass an obstruction in the airway, to provide long-term breathing support or to provide a temporary airway during another procedure that might restrict breathing. The inserted tube can remain in place as long as breathing support is needed, and can be temporary or permanent.
An emergency tracheotomy is a quick procedure that involves a cut in the larynx and the insertion of a tube to provide oxygen to the patient. Non-emergency procedures are more thorough, making a cut in the neck and separating the neck muscles before cutting into the trachea. An oxygen tube is then inserted to let the patient breathe and help remove the obstruction.
Patients may experience difficulty breathing and speaking with the tracheotomy tube in place. Depending on how long the tube is needed, it may be closed up with stitches or surgically. Recovery from a tracheotomy takes a few weeks and may require speech therapy along with plenty of rest. While this is generally considered a safe procedure, there are risks associated with any surgical procedure. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.