The tracheotomy is one of the oldest documented surgical procedures. It involves making an incision through the front of the throat to allow access to the windpipe, or trachea. The hole from the incision, also called the stoma, can be used to help the patient breathe without the use of the nose or mouth.

A tracheotomy is performed in the event of severe facial trauma, inflammation, or tumors in the head and neck. In comatose patients or those requiring extensive surgery, a tracheotomy may help to keep the airway clear.

The first tracheotomy on record is from the Egyptians, around 3600 BC. Surgery during that time and up through the 16th century was very complicated, with added risk of infection because of un-sterilized surgical utensils.

The trachea’s close proximity to the carotid artery also causes complications, as even a nick to this important bloodline can cause extreme blood loss.

The current procedure and aftercare for tracheotomies was first described by Chevalier  Jackson in 1909, greatly decreasing the mortality rate. Today, tracheotomies are a rarely used but still useful surgical procedure. The combination of a sterile environment, antibiotics, and careful postoperative care make them no greater in terms of risk than any other surgical procedure.

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