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A tracheotomy is infrequently performed to bypass a significant airway blockage and get air directly to the lungs via the trachea. This form of treatment is typically reserved for very sick patients who have complicating factors such as cardiac arrhythmias associated with obstructive sleep apnea, and for whom other forms of treatment have not resolved the obstruction.

In this procedure, the surgeon makes a permanent hole in the neck and places a tube between the opening and the trachea (this opening is called a tracheostomy). The tube remains closed during the daytime to facilitate normal breathing and speaking, but a valve allows it to be opened at night so as to allow air around a throat blockage when the patient is sleeping.

Given the potential for complications with a tracheostomy and the fact that other surgical treatments are usually effective, this form of airway surgery is rarely used in addressing sleep apnea today.

For information on more minimally invasive treatments for obstructive sleep apnea, contact Florida ENT Surgical Specialists at 407.303.4120.