A tracheotomy is a delicate procedure that requires proper care to be successful. Here’s a short guide to effective tracheostomy care.
What is a tracheostomy?
A tracheostomy, often shortened to a trach, is a small hole that is surgically created in the trachea when a person has an obstruction that doesn’t allow breathing through the normal passages. This can happen for a variety of reasons, and it can be temporary or permanent.
Part of the trach is a tube that is inserted into the trachea. To keep it open, suction is applied through the tube. There is an inner cannula that’s important to keep in the tube for suctioning purposes, as it helps direct the catheter to the right place for efficient suctioning.
A trained nurse will teach the patient how to clean the trach tube and change it as necessary. The trach and the areas surrounding it needs to be cleaned at least once a day, and the ties around the trach at least once a week. If necessary, the doctor may remove the whole tube and change it.
To clean properly, follow this procedure:
- Put on a clean pair of plastic gloves.
- Mix hydrogen peroxide with sterile water or saline in a clean bowl.
- Pull out the inner cannula and replace it with clean new one.
- Dip a Q-tip or similar cotton swab into the hydrogen peroxide solution for a few seconds for complete coverage, and gently swipe it in one direction all around the trach opening. Take new ones as necessary. Do not re-dip any swabs into the clean solution.
- DIp a gauze pad into the solution, or a mixture of clean water and soap, and clean the larger areas around the trach.
- Check for any skin irritations, and report to the doctor if seen.
- Change the drain sponge at least once a day but more frequently if wet.
- Trach ties should be changed if set or dirty. They can be cleaned, dried and re-used.
- You can also clean the inner canula and re-use it by soaking it for a few minutes in the hydrogen peroxide solution and cleaning it off with a small bottle brush or pipe cleaner. You may need to run it under hot water if thick or dried mucus doesn’t come off. Then soak it in plain clean water and let it air dry.
Physician tracheostomy care
The doctor will see the patient regularly to monitor his tracheostomy care. He’ll also keep track of the obstructions or whatever is causing the breathing issues. When it clears up, he’ll remove the trach tube. The hole may be left to close on its own or be closed through surgery.
At Sinai Post Acute Care Center for Rehabilitation, our doctors and nurses provide tracheostomy care services to help our patients breathe easier and stay clean. Our trained nurses can teach the patient or the regular caregiver how to clean and properly manage the trach so you can do it at home.