A tracheostomy is an opening created at the front of the neck so a tube can be inserted into the windpipe (trachea) to help you breathe.

If necessary, the tube can be connected to an oxygen supply and a breathing machine called a ventilator.

The tube can also be used to remove any fluid that’s built up in the throat and windpipe.

A tracheostomy may be carried out to:

  • deliver oxygen to the lungs if you’re unable to breathe normally after an injury or accident, or because your muscles are very weak
  • allow you to breathe if your throat is blocked – for example, by a swelling, tumour or something stuck in the throat
  • reduce the risk of food or fluid entering the lungs (aspiration) if you find coughing difficult

A tracheostomy will usually be planned in advance and carried out in hospital. But sometimes it may need to be done in an emergency outside of hospital, such as at the scene of an accident.

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