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  • A tracheotomy is a surgery done to help you breathe through an opening in your trachea. The trachea is the tube that runs down inside the front part of your neck. The air you breathe passes from your nose or mouth, down your trachea, and into your lungs. The lungs then deliver the oxygen taken from the air to your blood and body organs. You may need this surgery if you are very sick and need long-term help with your breathing. You may need this surgery if you have a disease that damages the muscles used in breathing. You may also need a tracheotomy if you cannot clear the mucous out of your airways. This surgery may also be done if you need emergency breathing help from an injury.
  • With a tracheotomy, a cut or a small hole is made in your neck and trachea. A plastic or metal tube, also called a trach, is put into the incision or hole. This tube may be connected to a breathing machine to help draw air into your lungs. The tracheotomy may also be used to suction out phlegm that may be blocking your airways. Having a tracheotomy may decrease your breathing problems and improve the oxygen levels in your body.


Take your medicine as directed.

Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Deep breathing and suction:

Deep breathing may help prevent a lung infection. Deep breathing opens the tubes going to your lungs. Caregivers will show you how to suction the mucus out of your trach tube. This is done by putting a plastic suction tube into your trach tube to get the mucus out. If someone will be helping you at home, make sure they are present for this teaching.


Follow your caregiver's instructions on eating after you leave the hospital. To decrease the risk of the food going into your trachea, your head should be raised when eating. Ask your caregiver if you need to be on a special diet.

Fears and concerns:

It is normal to be afraid when leaving the hospital with a new trach tube. Tell your caregivers about your fears and concerns so they can help you.

Mouth care:

Follow your caregiver's instructions on how to keep your mouth clean and moist when you have a trach.


You may need extra oxygen to help you breathe easier. It may be given through a plastic mask over your trach tube. It may also be given through a nasal cannula, instead of a mask. A nasal cannula is a pair of short, thin tubes that rest just inside your nose. Tell your caregiver if your nose gets dry or if the mask or nasal cannula bother you. Ask your caregiver before taking off your oxygen. Never smoke or let anyone else smoke around your oxygen, this can be very dangerous.


Your caregivers will help you learn how to let others know what you need. Your caregiver will teach you what you need to do with your trach so you can speak. You may need to release air from the plastic cuff around the tube in your neck. When breathing out air will pass through your vocal cords and allow you to talk in a whisper. A special one-way valve may also be given to you that can be used to help you talk.

Wound and tube care:

Your caregiver will teach you how to care for your trach tube. You will need to make sure your trach area stays clean and dry to prevent infection. Your trach tube will have and inner and outer cannula (tube). The inner cannula may need to be changed daily. This will also help to decrease your risk of infection. Your caregivers will teach you or your home caregiver how to take care of your trach tube.


  • You have an increased amount of mucus or it is very thick.
  • You have chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.
  • You have pain in your neck area that does not go away, or gets worse.
  • You have trouble swallowing.
  • Your incision is swollen, red, or has pus coming from it.
  • You have questions or concerns about your medicine, or care.


  • You are coughing up blood.
  • You are very short of breath and coughing and suctioning does not help.
  • You start bleeding from your incision.
  • You suddenly have chest pain.
  • Your trach tube falls out and you cannot get it back in. This is an emergency. Call 911 for an ambulance to take you to the nearest hospital. Do not drive yourself!

Learn more about Tracheotomy (Aftercare Instructions)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.