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Tracheostomy Pronunciation: Tray-key-oss-toe-me (ˌtrā-kē-ˈäs-tə-mē)

Definition: A tracheostomy is a surgically created hole through the front of the neck into the trachea (windpipe) that allows direct access to the breathing tube and is used to allow a person to breathe when the normal route for breathing is somehow obstructed or impaired.

What is a Tracheostomy?


A tracheostomy provides an air passage to help breathe when the usual route for breathing is obstructed or compromised. A tracheostomy may be temporary or permanent, depending on the patient’s condition and need.

Key Facts about Tracheostomy:

  • A tracheostomy bypasses the mouth, nose, and throat to provide a direct airway into the lungs.
  • It can be a lifesaving procedure for individuals with blocked airways, chronic respiratory diseases, or those needing long-term ventilator support.
  • Care must be taken to keep the tracheostomy site clean to prevent infections and other complications.
  • Living with a tracheostomy requires adjustments in daily life, including changes in how the person breathes, talks, and eats.

Tracheostomy in Medical Practice

How is a tracheostomy performed?

A tracheostomy is performed under general anesthesia and typically involves the following steps:

  • A small incision is made in the neck to access the trachea.
  • A hole is created in the trachea, and a tube is inserted to secure the opening.
  • The tube is connected to a ventilator if the patient needs help breathing.

Frequently Asked Questions About Tracheostomy

What is the purpose of a tracheostomy?

A tracheostomy is performed to bypass an obstructed upper airway, to clean and remove secretions from the airway, or to more easily, and usually more safely, deliver oxygen to the lungs.

Can you speak with a tracheostomy?

Speech is possible with a tracheostomy, but it may be challenging until the person adapts. Devices called speaking valves can also assist in enabling speech by redirecting air flow through the vocal cords.


  1. Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Tracheostomy. Retrieved July 31, 2023, from
  2. MedlinePlus. (2023). Tracheostomy. Retrieved July 31, 2023, from