Why would someone need a tracheostomy?

If you’re reading this, there’s a chance you might be curious as to why anyone would need a tracheostomy. Well, let me tell you, it’s not because they want to impress their friends or win any awards for cool medical procedures (although I do think it should be made into an Olympic event). No, the reason someone might need a tracheostomy is usually due to some sort of restriction in their airway that makes breathing difficult or impossible. In simpler terms: when your regular breathing methods just aren’t cutting it.

The Basics of Tracheostomies

Before we dive deeper into why someone may need this particular procedure done, let’s go over what exactly a tracheostomy is and how it works.

A tracheostomy is essentially creating an opening in the front of your neck (specifically through your windpipe) and inserting a tube known as the “trach” which allows air to bypass any obstructions in the upper respiratory tract straight into the lungs. This differs from normal breathing where air travels through our nasal passage or mouth down our throat before reaching our lungs.

Here are some quick facts about this unique surgical option:

  • A trach can either be temporary or permanent depending on the patient’s health condition.
  • It was first introduced around 2nd Century BC by Galen of Pergamon.
  • Due to modern advancements in medicine, traditional emergency/triage situations have shifted away from using immediate cricothyrotomies (another type of incision procedure used during life-threatening times) towards utilizing more precise selective techniques such as bedside/operating-room based formalization-guided percutaneous dilational/open-cricothyroidotomy pathway under ultrasonographic guidance among others.

Fascinating stuff right? Let’s move on!

When Would Someone Need One?

Not everyone would need a tracheostomy, but there are certain scenarios and health conditions where doctors might consider it as an option. Below we’ve listed some of the most common situations in which this surgical method can be beneficial:

  1. Choking hazards:

Sometimes when people eat, accidentally inhale something into their lungs (aspiration), or suffer from seizures; their airways become blocked making it hard to breathe properly.

  1. Cancer or Tumors:

In these cases patients may require surgery in order to remove portions of the respiratory anatomy like the larynx, pharynx(e.g., cancer of voice box) or tongue that impede airflow sending individuals on frequent trips to hospitals for repeated intubation round-the-clock.

  1. Respiratory Infections

This could include infections causing pneumonia caused by bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumoniae , viruses like SARS-CoV-2 virus behind COVID-19 disease and fungi including Aspergillus species affecting immunocompromised patients’ lung function rendering them unable maintain normal breathing patterns during attempted inhalation with negative intrapleural pressure leading up development spontaneous pneumothoraces requiring drainage using chest tube thoracotomy procedures among others.

  1. Sleep Apnea:

Some forms such as central sleep apnea involves intense moments where oxygen levels drop significantly due abnormal lack breathing effort seen usually found on EEG recordings along with hypo/bradycardia reflected in EKG recordings taking place without actual physical obstructions thus resulting psychiatric evaluation before procedural operations are performed.

5.Facial Trauma:

If someone experiences blunt trauma to their face with significant bony fractures involving nasal bones/maxillary sinus cavities etc.; having a trach inserted instead going through naso/oropharyngeal passages prior healing completely avoiding excess inflammation/tissue necrosis risk.

How Could It Help?

We already mentioned a few instances where tracheostomies can be beneficial, but how exactly are they helping those with blocked/obstructed airways. Below we’ve listed some potential benefits of this specific surgical method:

  1. Reducing the need for intubation:

Intubation is the process of inserting a tube down someone’s throat to help them breathe when their airway is compromised or obstructed form accidents or illnesses but overuse it leads sore throat, loss of voice irritation among others that adds on to cumulative hospitalization stays.

  1. Improving efficiency of ventilation:

A respiratory rate set at 12-16 breaths/minute in healthy individuals whereas in ventilated patients, settings need ideally synchronized patient-specific protocols based arterial blood gas profiles/trends minimize barotrauma pulmonary inflammation applied after placement better facilitate inhalation/exhalation patterns bypass obstructions using negative atmospheric pressure etc.

  1. Improved oxygen saturation levels:

One result from a properly performing trach could be maintaining blood oxygen saturation levels higher than before procedure preventing complications related cognitive dysfunction due lack feeding enough oxygen towards brain creating cloudy slight disorientation state confusion; delayed bodily reactions producing deficits responsible stroke-like symptoms within medical context such as speech disorders and cranial motor function disturbances visual perception dysfunctions(short or long).

4.Enhanced Communication Abilities:

Using alternate communication techniques like digital laryngeal feedback devices/speech-generating assistance software/apparatuses amongst others have shown significant improvement quality life among patients especially if social/family lives become restricted due impaired verbal/nonverbal functions; maintenance capabilities swallowing food/fluids reduce chances infections leading recurring episodes aspiration pneumonia requiring frequent visits emergency wards/hospital followed treatment courses.

The Risks

Of course, with any medical procedure comes risks and drawbacks associated with its use. Before deciding on whether you’ll require a tracheostomy there are some critical points mentioned below worth noting:

  1. Infections:

This happens to be one of the most significant risks associated with a tracheostomy procedure, as any potential opening in our bodies can leave us susceptible to infections such as sepsis or endocarditis requiring further intervention.

  1. Bleeding:

Due nature procedure invasive measures taken during this surgery especially when switching from intubation, injuries vascular structures within chest area could lead spontaneous haemothorax risking life; minimizing radiation exposure necessary minimize additional harms x-rays that may contribute sequelae treatments concerned affected areas peripheral nerves/muscle function distally/proximally.

  1. Air leakage into surrounding spaces:

Pneumothoraces which result from pathological leaking air into pleural cavity often require prolonged chest tube thoracotomy drainage procedures treating them once detected at earlier stages reducing morbidity compared higher-grade ones already leading persistent damages treatment failure.

4.Discomfort/pain experienced after operation:

The deployment surgical cuts made whilst inserting tubes may cause extended pain/discomfort swallowing and slow healing processes limit oral intake ability highly recommend consulting alternative methods feeding alongside medical providers avoid long-term issues like malnutrition developmental milestones physical/mental health impairment while recuperating.


Tracheostomies aren’t just for show-and-tell purposes (although it might make for an interesting conversation starter). There are times when having a direct route for breathing is necessary to maintain normal lung function and keep individuals alive.

Although never intended palliative measure alone but rather used temporary options until underlying causes obstructions persist resolved spontaneously; they still deserve attention understanding regardless patient’s age gender.
Whether obtained temporarily via illness or required permanently due reduced lung capacity secondary trauma/burns etc.; the benefits outweigh possible complications so contemplating going through this process wouldn’t differ other major operations performed surgeons across globe annually giving rise healthier more fulfilling lives depending upon how patients utilize resources supporting them after operation.

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