Fayette Williams, DDS, MD
Do I really need a tracheostomy?
Updated: Aug 30, 2019
Depending on the size and location of the tumor, surgery can create enough swelling that breathing can be difficult in the days after surgery. This is more common for tumors of the lower jaw in the chin area. Tumors of the upper jaw less commonly affect your breathing.
The reason tumors in the chin area are of most concern is because the tongue muscles are detached from the bone during surgery. While these muscles eventually heal back to the new bone in the chin, the tongue can fall backwards in the initial days after the surgery and obstruct your breathing. A tracheostomy (trach) is an opening into the windpipe (trachea) to ensure you can breath safely after surgery. Tumors on the side of the lower jaw can also require a trach if there is concern for swelling.
The good news about a trach is that we tend to be more confident in giving heavy duty pain medications since we worry less about your breathing. And it's easy to breath for you if there is a reason to keep you asleep after surgery. The bad news is that you cannot talk for about 5 days. After day 5, the trach is exchanged for a smaller trach that allow you to talk around it. Patients do tend to complain about the trach more than their other surgical sites.
A tracheostomy (trach) is an opening into the windpipe (trachea) to ensure you can breath safely after surgery. Dr. Williams tries to remove the trach prior to discharge from the hospital, although in some cases it is removed in the office later.