AskDefine | Define tracheotomy

Dictionary Definition

tracheotomy n : a surgical operation that creates an opening into the trachea with a tube inserted to provide a passage for air; performed when the pharynx is obstructed by edema or cancer or other causes [syn: tracheostomy]

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative forms


From trachea + -otomy


  1. In the context of "surgery": A surgical procedure in which an incision is made into the trachea, through the neck, and a tube inserted so as to make an artificial opening in order to assist breathing.

Extensive Definition

Tracheotomy and tracheostomy are surgical procedures on the neck to open a direct airway through an incision in the trachea (the windpipe). They are performed by paramedics, veterinarians, emergency physicians and surgeons. Both surgical and percutaneous techniques are now widely used.
While tracheostomy may have possibly been portrayed on ancient Egyptian tablets, and the currently used surgical tracheostomy technique was described in 1909 by Dr. Chevalier Jackson from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


Tracheotomy, from the Greek root tom- meaning "to cut," refers to the procedure of cutting into the trachea and is an emergency procedure.
A tracheostomy, from the root stom- meaning "mouth," refers to the making of a semipermanent or permanent opening, and to the opening itself.
Some sources offer different definitions of the above terms. Part of the ambiguity is due to the uncertainty of the intended permanence of the stoma at the time it is created.

Uses of tracheotomy

The conditions in which a tracheotomy may be used are:
In emergency settings, in the context of failed endotracheal intubation or where intubation is contraindicated, cricothyroidotomy or mini-tracheostomy may be performed in preference to a tracheostomy.

Tracheotomy procedure

  1. Curvilinear skin incision along relaxed skin tension lines (RSTL) between sternal notch and cricoid cartilage.
  2. Midline vertical incision dividing strap muscles.
  3. Division of thyroid isthmus between ligatures.
  4. Elevation of cricoid with cricoid hook.
  5. Placement of tracheal incision. An inferior based flap or Björk flap (through second and third tracheal rings) is commonly used. The flap is then sutured to the inferior skin margin. Alternatives include a vertical tracheal incision (pediatric) or excision of an ellipse of anterior tracheal wall.
  6. Insert tracheostomy tube (with concomitant withdrawal of endotracheal tube), inflate cuff, secure with tape around neck or stay sutures.
  7. Connect ventilator tubing.
It is also possible to make a simple vertical incision between tracheal rings (typically 2nd and 3rd) for the incision. rear end flaps may produce more intratracheal granulation tissue at the site of the incisions, making it less favorable to some surgeons.

Percutaneous Tracheotomy procedure

  1. Curvilinear skin incision along relaxed skin tension lines between sternal notch and cricoid cartilage.
  2. Midline blunt dissection down to the trachea (optional depending on technique).
  3. Insertion of 14-gauge plastic cannula and needle with fluid filled syringe attached into trachea. Aspiration of air confirms correct placement of the tip in the trachea.
  4. Removal of needle leaving cannula in place.
  5. Insertion of soft tipped guide wire into trachea through cannula.
  6. Removal of cannula leaving guide wire in place.
  7. Tracheal dilatation is now undertaken - different techniques do this in different ways.
    1. Ciaglia - the sequential insertion and removal of a series (usually 4-5) of increasing larger dilators over the wire into the trachea.
    2. Griggs - insertion of a specially designed pair of guide-wire forceps along the wire into the trachea and then are opened to complete the dilation in one step.
    3. Rhino - insertion of a single large tapered dilator over a plastic guidewire reinforcement.
    4. Frova Percutwist - insertion of a specially designed screw of increasing diameter which rotates to create the dilatation.
  8. Insert tracheostomy tube (with concomitant withdrawal of endotracheal tube), inflate cuff, secure with tape around neck or stay sutures.
  9. Connect ventilator tubing.


  1. Immediate - pneumothorax or pneumomediastinum, tracheoesophageal fistula, injury to great vessels or recurrent laryngeal nerves, bleeding, e.g. from divided thyroid isthmus. The various rhino techniques may be associated with an increase in fractured tracheal rings the significance of which is unclear.
  2. Early - secretions and mucus plugging, dislodged tube, respiratory arrest and post obstructive pulmonary edema (when tracheostomy is performed in a patient with longstanding upper airway obstruction, and is dependent on hypoxic drive for respiration).
  3. Late - bleeding from tracheoinnominate fistula (can be torrential), tracheal stenosis (from ischemia induced by a cuffed tracheostomy tube), tracheoesophageal fistula, tracheocutaneous fistula and cosmetic deformity must be considered upon decannulation.


  1. Immune problems - air inhaled through a stoma is not filtered or moistened like it is when inhaled through the nose or the mouth.
  2. Drowning - as little as two teaspoons of water in the stoma can drown the person; therefore, they cannot swim and bathing must be done with extreme care.
  3. Suffocation - if the stoma is covered, the person will suffocate, as in some cases they cannot breathe through their nose or their mouth.


External links

tracheotomy in Afrikaans: Trageotomie
tracheotomy in Arabic: ثقب القصبة الهوائية
tracheotomy in Czech: Tracheotomie
tracheotomy in Danish: Tracheostomi
tracheotomy in German: Tracheotomie
tracheotomy in Spanish: Traqueotomía
tracheotomy in French: Trachéotomie
tracheotomy in Italian: Tracheotomia
tracheotomy in Dutch: Tracheotomie
tracheotomy in Japanese: 気管切開
tracheotomy in Norwegian: Trakeotomi
tracheotomy in Polish: Tracheotomia
tracheotomy in Portuguese: Traqueostomia
tracheotomy in Russian: Трахеотомия
tracheotomy in Finnish: Trakeostomia
tracheotomy in Swedish: Trakeotomi
tracheotomy in Chinese: 氣管切開術
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