How do I prepare for my tracheostomy?
You are a very important member of your own healthcare team. The steps you take before surgery can improve your outcome after the procedure. You can best prepare yourself for a tracheostomy by:
- Answering all questions about your medical history and medications you take. This includes prescribed medications, over-the-counter drugs, herbal treatments, and vitamins. It is a good idea to carry a current list of your medical conditions, medications, and allergies at all times.
- Getting pre-operative testing as directed. Testing varies depending on your age, health, and specific procedure. Pre-operative testing may include a chest X-ray, electrocardiography (ECG), blood tests, and other tests as needed.
- If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about losing weight before the surgery if possible through a healthy diet and exercise plan.
- Not eating or drinking just prior to surgery as directed. Your doctor may cancel your surgery if you eat or drink too close to the start of the procedure due to a risk of complications. These include choking on stomach contents during deep anesthesia.
- Stopping smoking as soon as possible. Even quitting for a just few days can be helpful.
- Taking or stopping medications exactly as directed. For a tracheostomy, this may include not taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and blood thinners.
Questions to ask your doctor
Facing surgery can be stressful. It is common for patients to forget some of their questions during a brief doctor’s office visit. You may also think of other questions after your appointment. You should feel free to contact your doctor with any concerns before surgery and between appointments. It is also a good idea to bring a list of questions to your pre-operative appointments. Questions can include:
- Why do I need a tracheostomy? Are there any other options for treating my condition?
- How long will the surgery take? When will I be able to go home?
- Is my tracheostomy temporary or permanent?
- What restrictions will I have after the surgery? When can I expect to return to work and other activities?
- What kind of assistance will I need at home?
- Will I be able to talk? How will I be able to communicate?
- Who will teach my caregiver or me how to care for my tracheostomy site?
- What medications will I need before and after the surgery?
- How will you manage my pain?
- How should I contact you? When should I see you in follow-up?Ask for numbers to call during and after regular hours.
What can I expect after my tracheostomy?
Knowing what to expect can help make your road to recovery after a tracheostomy as smooth as possible.
How long will it take to recover?
You will need to stay in the hospital for a period of time after your tracheostomy. After the surgery, you will stay briefly in the recovery room or your care team may move you to an intensive care unit (ICU). ICUs provide 24-hour specialized monitoring and care. A hospital stay of one to three to ten days may then be required.
Recovery after surgery is a gradual process. How long it will take for you to recover and return to normal activities varies depending on the reason for your tracheostomy, the type of tracheostomy (temporary or permanent), and if you need breathing support from a ventilator. Other factors include the type of anesthesia used during the procedure, and your general health and age.
You may be unable to talk if your tracheostomy is connected to a ventilator. If not, it will still take some time for you to learn to communicate with a tracheostomy. Your doctor will likely recommend speech therapy to help you to talk again and test your ability to swallow food and liquids safely again. Once your tracheostomy is fully formed and healed, you may hear it referred to as “matured.”
Will I feel pain?
Pain control is an important element to healing and a smooth recovery. Although there will be discomfort after your surgery, you can expect that your doctor and care team will manage your pain effectively so you are comfortable and can get the rest you need. Contact your doctor if you are in pain despite following your pain management plan or if your pain gets worse or changes. This may indicate the development of a complication.
© Copyright 2012 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. For specific medical advice, diagnoses and treatment, consult your doctor.