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A tracheotomy is surgery to help you breathe through an opening in your trachea.


Before your surgery:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.
  • An IV is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.
  • Antibiotics may be given to prevent a bacterial infection.
  • Anesthesia is medicine to make you comfortable during your surgery. Healthcare providers will work with you to decide which anesthesia is best for you.
    • Local anesthesia is a shot of medicine put into your neck. It is used to numb the area and dull the pain. You may still feel pressure or pushing during surgery.
    • General anesthesia will keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. Anesthesia may be given through your IV. You may instead breathe it in through a mask or a tube placed down your throat. The tube may cause you to have a sore throat when you wake up.

During your surgery:

Your healthcare provider will make a small incision in front of your neck and in your trachea. Your healthcare provider may instead use a needle to put a small hole into your trachea. He will then place a guidewire into your trachea and widen the hole. He may use a bronchoscope to take pictures of the inside of your airway. A bronchoscope is a tube with a light and camera on the end. A metal or plastic tube will then be placed into the incision or hole in your neck. This tube is called a tracheotomy tube or trach tube.

After your surgery:

You will be taken to a room to rest until you are fully awake. You will be monitored closely for any problems. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. You will then be able to go home or be taken to your hospital room.

  • Deep breathing, coughing, and suction may help prevent a lung infection. Take deep breaths and cough 10 times each hour. Take a deep breath and hold it for as long as you can. Let the air out and cough strongly. Deep breaths help open your airway. You may be given an incentive spirometer to help you take deep breaths. Put the plastic piece in your mouth and take a slow, deep breath, then let the air out and cough. Repeat these steps 10 times every hour. Healthcare providers will help remove any mucus if you have trouble getting it out of the trach tube. This is done by putting a plastic suction tube down into your trach tube to get the mucus out.
  • You may be fed liquid nutrition through a plastic tube put into your nose or mouth. The liquid nutrition will give you all the vitamins, minerals, and protein you need to help you heal. You may also be able to eat by mouth starting with blended foods.
  • Mouth care will be given to keep your mouth clean and moist after your surgery. Healthcare providers may use special swabs to care for your mouth.
  • Oxygen may be given to help you breathe easier. It may be given through your nose or through a plastic mask over your trach tube. Your trach tube may be connected to a ventilator if you cannot breathe well on your own. A ventilator is a machine that gives you oxygen and breathes for you.
  • You will not be able to speak for many days after your surgery. Your healthcare provider will help you learn how to let others know what you need. When you are able to speak, air will be released from the cuff around your trach tube. You may need to cover the trach tube with a finger while you breathe out. This will let air pass into your voice box and allow you to speak in a whisper. A special one-way valve may also be used to help you talk.
  • Wound and tube care will help decrease your risk of infection. Your healthcare provider will make sure that the hole in your neck and your trach tube are clean and dry. Your trach tube will have inner and outer tubes called cannulas. The inner cannula may need to be changed daily.


You may bleed more than expected or get an infection. Air may get trapped under your skin through the opening in your neck. You may have trouble breathing if the trach tube is blocked by blood clots or mucus. You may have trouble swallowing after surgery. Your trachea may narrow and decrease the amount of air that gets into your lungs. The trach tube may also rub on your trachea or the blood vessels in your neck. This may create an abnormal hole that could cause bleeding or allow food and fluid to get into your lungs. Your body may react to the tube by forming tissue lumps around or near the opening. The trach tube may come out on its own.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

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Learn more about Tracheotomy (Inpatient Care)

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