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Why it's used

A tracheostomy is sometimes needed if you're unable to breathe normally because of an underlying health condition or a blocked airway.

Breathing problems

A tracheostomy can deliver oxygen to the lungs if you can't breathe normally. This is known as respiratory failure.

Conditions that can lead to respiratory failure and the need for a tracheostomy include:

In some cases, a tube attached to an artificial breathing machine (ventilator) is inserted into the mouth and down the throat.

But this can be uncomfortable, so a tracheostomy may be carried out if you need help breathing for more than a few days.

Blockages

A tracheostomy can also be used to bypass an airway that's become blocked as a result of:

In addition, some children born with birth defects that cause their airways to be abnormally narrow may need a tracheostomy to help them breathe.

Removing fluid

It may be necessary to carry out a tracheostomy to remove fluid that's built up in the airways.

This may be needed if you: