A tracheotomy (search) is a surgical procedure during which doctors cut a hole through the throat into the windpipe, or trachea, in order to help someone breathe.
It's performed when the windpipe gets blocked.
How could the windpipe get blocked?
— The larynx, or voicebox, could become so swollen that air can't get through. (see "anatomy")
— An object could become stuck in the larynx or windpipe.
How does the tracheotomy work?
— Basically, think of the blocked trachea as a blocked highway.
— The tracheotomy is a detour for air to get to the lungs.
— Instead of going through the mouth and back of the neck, doctors send the air directly through the front of the throat.
— To do that, doctors cut into the neck and then insert a tube into the trachea that lets in air.
— In diseases such as pneumonia, the incision can be used to drain the lungs of fluid.
— A tracheotomy is not permanent. (A tracheostomy is the permanent procedure.)
— Once the blockage is cleared, the hole in the neck can be closed and allowed to heal.
— The trachea and larynx are essential to breathing.
— Air enters the nose or mouth and then goes down through the larynx, or voicebox.
— The voicebox has a valve that opens and closes for air (and to produce sound).
— You can feel the voicebox as the Adam's Apple at the front of the throat.
— The voicebox/larynx leads to the trachea, or windpipe.
— The trachea is a rigid tube of cartilage that goes to the lungs.