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What is tracheal surgery?

Tracheal surgery treats a variety of diseases, disorders and conditions that affect the function of the trachea (windpipe). This includes airway blockages, cancerous and noncancerous tumors, and problems with the larynx (voice box). Tracheal surgery can restore breathing function and improve quality of life for people with common or rare tracheal conditions.

Your trachea, or windpipe, starts in the neck just below the voice box and continues down behind the breastbone. It divides into two smaller tubes called bronchi the supply air to each lung. Your trachea is made of muscle, connective tissue, and rings of stiff cartilage. It also has a lining of moist mucus membranes. Your trachea expands and contracts slightly as you breathe. 

Tracheal surgery is major surgery that has risks and potential complications. You may have less invasive treatment options. Consider getting a second opinion about all of your treatment choices before having tracheal surgery. 

Types of tracheal surgery

The types of tracheal surgery include: 

  • Laryngotracheal reconstruction rebuilds and widens the windpipe using pieces of cartilage from another area or from a donor.
  • Laryngotracheal resection and reanastomosis removes a section of the windpipe and joins the two ends.
  • Tracheostomy creates a stoma (hole) in the front of the neck and through the trachea (windpipe). A tube is inserted in the opening. The tube provides an airway for breathing and a way to remove lung secretions and excess mucus.
Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Nov 7, 2013

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Medical References

Airway/Tracheal Program. Massachusetts General Hospital. http://www.massgeneral.org/thoracicsurgery/services/treatmentprograms.aspx?id=1249. Accessed July 4, 2013.
Grillo HC. Development of tracheal surgery: a historical review. Part 1: techniques of tracheal surgery. Ann Thorac Surg 2003;75:610-619. http://ats.ctsnetjournals.org/cgi/content/full/75/2/610. Accessed July 4, 2013.
Grillo HC. Development of tracheal surgery: a historical review. Part 2: treatment of tracheal diseases. Ann Thorac Surg 2003;75:1039-1047. http://ats.ctsnetjournals.org/cgi/content/full/75/3/1039. Accessed July 4, 2013.
Overview of Tracheal Surgery. Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. http://www.chw.org/display/PPF/DocID/42559/Nav/1/router.asp. Accessed July 4, 2013.
Pile, JC. Evaluating postoperative fever: A focused approach. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. 2006;73 (Suppl 1):S62. http://ccjm.org/content/73/Suppl_1/S62.full.pdf. Accessed July 4, 2013.
Tracheal Surgery. Duke University. http://www.dukehealth.org/services/otolaryngology/programs/tracheal_surgery. Accessed July 4, 2013.
Tracheostomy. American Thoracic Society. http://www.thoracic.org/clinical/critical-care/patient-information/icu-devices-and-procedures/tracheostomy-putting-a-breathing-tube-through-a-small-hole-in-the-throat.php. Accessed July 4, 2013.

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