Some people will need to have a tracheostomy performed. This is a procedure done to maintain and preserve a patent airway. For most, this is the only unobstructed way for them to breathe. The reasons a tracheostomy is performed are varied. It could be to have a route to administer mechanical ventilation, or due to a neurological illness that has caused the upper airway to collapse or become floppy. It can be due to an emergency or trauma where the airway is impaired to a point where it may be a matter of life or death.
A tracheostomy, many times, replaces an ET (endotracheal tube) in the airway. When someone is on mechanical ventilation in the hospital, especially as they come into the emergency department and post-trauma or post-surgery, they normally have a long tube inserted through their mouth and into the lungs. This is so the ventilator can be attached to the patient for augmented or artificial breathing. This tube is called the “ET” or “endotracheal tube”. Basically, it is a long silicone tube inserted via the mouth thru the vocal cords and into the lungs so the patient can breathe. Because of the damage that an ET tube can cause long-term, if it looks as though the patient will require continued mechanical ventilation, the ET tube will be replaced by a tracheostomy tube. A tracheostomy is designed to maintain an airway and a route for long-term mechanical ventilation.
There are a variety of tubes that are used for a tracheostomy. The physician performing the procedure will put in the most appropriate tube depending on the patient’s needs. Tubes are often changed for different sizes or styles as time goes on. There are an abundance of supplies and newer items for the tracheostomy patient. It is easier than ever to maintain a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle even with a tracheostomy.
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My name is Laura Castricone and I am a Certified Respiratory Therapist. I have been practicing in the state of Connecticut since 1992. I have worked in several aspects of respiratory care including ...
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