Tracheotomy (Gr. τραχεία, the windpipe, and τέμνειν, to cut), a surgical operation by which the trachea or windpipe is opened. Tracheotomy may be performed with propriety in cases where admission of air into the lungs is obstructed either by disease or by a foreign body; and it has sometimes been tried with success to facilitate the inflation of the lungs in cases of suspended animation. The operation is not free from danger, and in the first class of cases, though giving marked temporary relief, it does nothing toward curing the disease itself. It consists in first making an incision in the median line of the throat, either below or above the thyroid gland, and dissecting down to the trachea, cautiously pushing aside the sterno-hyoid muscles and vessels lying in the vicinity, till the trachea is exposed. When the bleeding has ceased, the trachea is opened by a vertical incision, and a portion of one or more of its rings removed; through the opening thus made a silver canula is introduced, which when obstructed by mucus may be removed, cleansed, and again inserted. If the obstruction to respiration is removed, the canula may be withdrawn and the orifice allowed to heal; but if not, the canula must continue to be worn.
If the operation is performed to aid in restoring animation or to remove a foreign body, no canula need be inserted, and the wound should be closed so soon as the object is effected.