A tracheostomy is a medical procedure which consists of creating an opening in the neck for direct access to the windpipe (trachea) to facilitate breathing. A tracheostomy can be either temporary or permanent and there are several reasons for having the procedure, all involving restricted airways. It may be performed during an emergency when your airway is blocked, or when a disease or other problem makes normal breathing impossible.
After a tracheotomy you will have a tracheostoma, with a tracheostomy tube entering your windpipe (trachea). This will change your way of breathing and speaking.
The function of your nose
Your nose does more than just smell – it heats, humidifies, and filters the air you breathe. In this way, you can be sure the air is at the right body temperature and contains enough moisture when it reaches your lungs for them to function properly. With a tracheostomy, these nasal functions are lost, and you will breathe in dry, cold, and unfiltered air. The lungs react to this by producing more mucus, meaning you have to cough more (similar to having a cold) and your windpipe can feel irritated.
Heat and Moisture Exchangers (HMEs) have been developed to compensate for the lost functions of your nose. They help to rebalance the “climate” in your lungs.
Speaking with a tracheostomy
Speech is our most important way of communicating. After a tracheotomy you breathe through a tracheostomy tube and the air you breathe out will no longer pass your vocal cords, producing your voice. You will have to learn to speak in a different way.
Speaking will be possible again by occluding the tracheostomy tube, provided there is enough space between the windpipe and the tube. By occluding the tube during exhalation, you will breathe out via your nose and mouth and the air from your lungs will pass your vocal cords, enabling you to speak.
TrachPhone is an HME containing a lid with a spring, that can easily be occluded with your finger.
To speak without using your hands, you can use a speaking valve to occlude the tracheostomy tube during exhalation. Freevent DualCare is a unique combination of a speaking valve and an HME.