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What To Expect Before a Tracheostomy

The procedure to make a tracheostomy usually is done in a hospital operating room. However, it also can be safely done at a patient's bedside.

Rarely, a doctor or emergency medical technician will do the procedure in a life-threatening situation, such as at the scene of an accident or other emergency.

When the procedure is done in a hospital, a general or pediatric surgeon or an otolaryngologist does the surgery. Otolaryngologists specialize in diagnosing and treating problems with the ears, nose, and throat and related structures of the head. These doctors also are called ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctors.

A pulmonologist or intensive care doctor may help assess your need for a tracheostomy. A pulmonologist specializes in diagnosing and treating lung diseases and conditions.

Often, doctors have to create tracheostomies on short notice, so you have little time to prepare. When possible, the surgical team may request that you fast (not eat anything) for 6–8 hours before the surgery.

If you're having a tracheostomy procedure, you'll receive general or local anesthesia (AN-es-THE-ze-ah). The term "anesthesia" refers to a loss of feeling and awareness. General anesthesia temporarily puts you to sleep. Local anesthesia numbs the neck and surrounding area.

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March 19, 2012 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.