Tracheostomy (tray-key-OS-tuh-me) is a surgically created hole through the front of your neck and into your windpipe (trachea). The term for the surgical procedure to create this opening is tracheotomy.

A tracheostomy provides an air passage to help you breathe when the usual route for breathing is somehow obstructed or impaired. A tracheostomy is often needed when health problems require long-term use of a machine (ventilator) to help you breathe. In rare cases, an emergency tracheotomy is performed when your airway is suddenly blocked, such as after a traumatic injury to your face or neck.

When a tracheostomy is no longer needed, it's allowed to heal shut or is surgically closed. For some people, a tracheostomy is permanent.

Sep. 04, 2013