A: A person who needs a ventilator or persons who have conditions that affect coughing or block their airways

A doctor might recommend a tracheostomy to a patient having trouble coughing. Coughing is a natural reflex that protects your lungs by clearing mucus and bacteria from the inner airways. For a person who has trouble coughing, a trach tube gives access to suction mucus from their airways.

Examples of diseases, conditions, and other factors that might interfere with coughing or block upper airways include:

  • Congenital defects of the upper airways (in children). “Congenital” means that the defects are present at birth.
  • Airway injuries from smoke, steam, or chemical burns.
  • Severe allergic reactions or infections.
  • Removal of the larynx (for example, from cancer).
  • Long-term coma.
  • Neuromuscular diseases that paralyze or weaken the muscles and nerves involved in breathing.
  • Spinal cord injuries.
Resource: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, NHLBI

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