Tracheostomy Tubes and Related Appliances

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Tracheostomy tubes are used to administer positive-pressure ventilation, to provide a patent airway, to provide protection from aspiration, and to provide access to the lower respiratory tract for airway clearance. They are available in a variety of sizes and styles, from several manufacturers. The dimensions of tracheostomy tubes are given by their inner diameter, outer diameter, length, and curvature. Differences in length between tubes of the same inner diameter, but from different manufacturers, are not commonly appreciated but may have important clinical implications. Tracheostomy tubes can be angled or curved, a feature that can be used to improve the fit of the tube in the trachea. Extra proximal length tubes facilitate placement in patients with large necks, and extra distal length tubes facilitate placement in patients with tracheal anomalies. Several tube designs have a spiral wire reinforced flexible design and have an adjustable flange design to allow bedside adjustments to meet extra-length tracheostomy tube needs. Tracheostomy tubes can be cuffed or uncuffed. Cuffs on tracheostomy tubes include high-volume low-pressure cuffs, tight-to-shaft cuffs, and foam cuffs. The fenestrated tracheostomy tube has an opening in the posterior portion of the tube, above the cuff, which allows the patient to breathe through the upper airway when the inner cannula is removed. Tracheostomy tubes with an inner cannula are called dual-cannula tracheostomy tubes. Several tracheostomy tubes are designed specifically for use with the percutaneous tracheostomy procedure. Others are designed with a port above the cuff that allows for subglottic aspiration of secretions. The tracheostomy button is used for stoma maintenance. It is important for clinicians caring for patients with a tracheostomy tube to understand the nuances of various tracheostomy tube designs and to select a tube that appropriately fits the patient.


Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Respiratory Care, Ellison 401, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard Medical School, 55 Fruit Street, Boston MA 02114;, Email:

Publication date: April 1, 2005

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