During a tracheotomy, the surgeon makes an incision through the front of the patient’s neck (the incision is known as a tracheostomy) to access the trachea and inserts a tracheostomy tube (see Fig. 1), which serves as an alternative airway to the mouth or nose. After insertion, a balloon is inflated to the diameter of the trachea, which fixes the tracheotomy tube in place, allows for positive pressure ventilation, and creates a seal to the walls of the trachea.

Tracheotomies are a common procedure; approximately 120,000 procedures are performed each year in the U.S. [1]. There are several indications for a tracheotomy, but a review of 1130 cases spanning over a decade found that tracheotomies are done most often to assist in prolonged mechanical ventilation (∼76%). They are also performed as an adjunct to head, neck, and chest surgery (∼11%) and to...

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