Tracheostomy is a surgically created opening in the neck that goes into an obstructed airway. The primary purpose of a tracheostomy is to bypass any obstruction in the upper airways and allow for a smooth flow of oxygen directly from the windpipe down to the lungs. This opening contributes to easy breathing after surgery, chronic respiratory diseases such as cystic fibrosis, and also in the treatment of head and neck cancers. If you or a loved one is going to have a tracheostomy, you must understand the specifics of the procedure and care. Here are six things you need to know

Tracheotomy vs Tracheostomy

As mentioned previously, tracheotomies are surgically created openings in the neck that go into an obstructed airway. Since the opening has been created by surgery, it is only appropriate that you get professional assistance to ensure proper hygiene and treatment of the wound. A tracheostomy is a similar procedure but rather than being surgically created, an opening has been made to go directly into the windpipe to avoid obstruction. Tracheotomies are usually quick surgeries that happen in emergency rooms or intensive care units (ICUs) while tracheostomies tend to happen in operating rooms.

Who Will Perform The Procedure?

A tracheotomy has to be performed by trained surgeons, but tracheostomy procedures can also be performed by other medical professionals, including emergency room physicians, anesthesiologists, and even nurses. These professionals must have the necessary experience and proper medical supplies to ensure the highest degree of care. The procedure is usually quick and painless, but it is helpful to have a doctor who has done the procedure before. Also, if your doctor recommends that you have the procedure done by another professional, make sure to ask them questions about their experience with tracheostomy procedures.

How Long Does A Tracheostomy Procedure Last?

Typically, a tracheostomy lasts 2-3 days. This length of time varies by patient and the severity of the illness or injury that led to your having a tracheostomy in the first place. Your surgeon will provide you with more specific information on how long your particular procedure will last. Some patients have longer procedures than others, while some patients experience complications that lengthen their procedures. It does not matter if your tracheostomy is a short one or a long one, you will still need to care for it in the same way. The best way to care for your tracheostomy is by keeping the area clean, dry, and free of secretions at all times.

Tracheostomy Tube Removal

When you are ready, the surgeon will remove the tracheostomy tube in your neck. This can be done in one of three ways: either when you are intubated (meaning when you are still under anesthesia), awake via local anesthesia, or under sedation. A tracheostomy tube can remain in place for anywhere between two days and two weeks. If you have a short tracheostomy, you may be able to have your tube removed the same day as your procedure. However, if you have a long tracheostomy tube in place for over two weeks, this is not possible as the tissues of the neck will have been allowed to heal around it and cannot come out with one quick tug from a surgeon’s hand.

Dangers And Risks Associated With Tracheostomy

As with any surgery, there are risks and dangers associated with having a tracheostomy. The most common risk of tracheostomy is the formation of airway scar tissue. This occurs when the trachea or surrounding tissues experience damage due to friction or pressure from your tracheostomy tube. If scar tissue forms, it can restrict the flow of air into your lungs. This will need to be treated with surgical removal, and you may need another tracheostomy. Another risk associated with a tracheostomy is infection. Because your tracheostomy tube is a foreign object in the body, it provides a direct route for bacteria to enter your airway and cause an infection. This can be a serious condition that needs to be treated immediately with antibiotics.

What To Expect After The Procedure

It is important to remember that recovery from a tracheostomy takes time. If your procedure was a short one, you may be able to return home the same day as surgery. However, if your surgery required the use of an oxygen tank and/or supplemental machine, it is usually recommended that you stay in the hospital for at least two nights to make sure you are stable and comfortable. Once discharged, it is very common for patients to experience discomfort while sleeping at night. This can be alleviated by using pillows or foam wedges to elevate the neck while sleeping. Also, be sure to avoid large meals for at least the first 24 to 48 hours after surgery. Many patients report that they feel very fatigued and exhausted throughout their recovery. This is entirely normal, but if you are concerned about your fatigue, call your doctor immediately.

While procedures can vary dependent on the patient and severity of illness or injury, these are the general steps you can expect to take part in during a tracheostomy. Everyone is different, so it’s important to remember that every person will have a unique experience with this type of surgery and care. ?Therefore, be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions and your tracheostomy care routine carefully, and you will be sure to have a speedy recovery.

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