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What To Expect After a Tracheostomy

Depending on your overall health, you may stay in the hospital for 3–10 days or more after getting a tracheostomy. It can take up to 2 weeks for a tracheostomy to fully form, or mature.

You might be sedated during your recovery. This means that you'll be given medicine to help you relax. The medicine might make you sleepy.

Eating

Until the tracheostomy is mature, you won't be able to eat normally. Instead of food, you may receive nutrients through an intravenous (IV) line inserted into a vein in your body. Or, you may get food through a feeding tube.

The feeding tube is placed through your nose or mouth and guided to your stomach. If you'll be on a ventilator for a long time, the tube might be placed directly into your stomach or small intestine through a surgically made hole.

After the tracheostomy has matured, you'll likely work with a speech therapist to regain your ability to swallow normally. You may have swallowing tests to show whether you can swallow safely. If you can, you might be able to start eating normally again.

Communicating

You won't be able to talk right after the procedure. Even after the tracheostomy has matured, you'll still have trouble speaking. The trach tube interferes with the normal voice process. It prevents air from the lungs from flowing over the voice box.

However, once your tracheostomy has matured, a speech therapist or other health professional will show you ways in which you can use your voice to speak clearly.

One option is a speaking valve that attaches to the trach tube. The valve lets air enter the tracheostomy, pass into the windpipe and up over the voice box, and then exit the mouth or nose.

Certain types of cuffed trach tubes also can help you speak. Doctors can widen or narrow cuffed tubes by inflating or deflating the cuffed part with air.

If you're using a ventilator, for example, the cuffed tube is inflated to fill the width of the airway. If you aren't using a ventilator, the tube can be deflated. This allows some air to enter the windpipe and pass over the voice box.

Other Concerns

If you no longer need the tracheostomy, your doctor will remove your trach tube. The hole should close up on its own fairly quickly.

If the hole doesn't close on its own, you may need surgery to close it. A small scar will remain at the site of the tracheostomy.

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March 19, 2012