A tracheotomy is a type of surgery that opens the windpipe, also known as the trachea. It is usually performed in emergency situations when the patient cannot receive sufficient air in the lungs. It may also be performed when mucus or other types of secretions block the patient's windpipe. The opening made in the neck is called a tracheostomy while the surgery itself is called a tracheotomy.
Ancient Egyptian tablets reveal that tracheotomies were once performed in ancient Egypt, but 1649 was the first time the word tracheotomy appeared in written documents. It wasn't until 100 years later that doctors routinely began to perform this type of surgery on patients. In early medical history, this type of surgery was first used as a last resort treatment, and many people died as a result of this operation. Today, the operation can save lives when it is correctly performed on patients.
When a doctor performs this delicate procedure, an incision is made at the base of the patient's throat. The doctor then inserts a breathing tube into the opening so that air can reach the lungs. When a patient has to undergo major surgery of the throat or mouth, the surgeon will often perform a tracheotomy on the patient.
This is done since patients often experience serious swelling after a mouth or throat operation, thereby limiting the amount of air that reaches the lungs. Patients who are connected to a ventilator for an extended period of time or who are unable to breathe on their own can be cared for more easily if they undergo this type of operation. People who suffer from severe sleep apnea may also need this operation in order to breathe easier when they sleep.
Tracheotomy tubes can be removed if the patient can finally breathe on his or her own. Some patients may require the tube for just a few days. Other patients who use ventilators or who have severe sleep apnea may require the tracheotomy tube for an indefinite period of time.
The majority of tracheotomy tubes must be cleaned on a regular basis because they contain an inner tube that can become blocked by secretions. The outer tube will need to be changed every few months in order for the procedure to continue its effectiveness. A patient with a new tracheotomy tube will need to have a humidifier attached to the device. The humidifier remains connected for about one month since the trachea needs to become accustomed to being exposed to dry air.