tracheotomy (trākēŏtˈəmē) [key], surgical incision into the trachea, or windpipe. The operation is performed when the windpipe has become blocked, e.g., by the presence of some foreign object or by swelling of the larynx. A curved or flexible tube is inserted into the trachea to facilitate breathing. In diseases such as pneumonia that cause the lungs to fill with fluids, this same incision may be used to drain the lungs. A tracheostomy is the surgical formation of a rounded opening into the trachea and differs from a tracheotomy in that the former procedure establishes a permanent opening.
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