Tracheostomy is a surgical opening in the neck that permits a tube to be inserted directly into the trachea (windpipe) when the upper airway is blocked or impaired. With the tube in place, breathing takes place through the tube rather than the nose or mouth.
A tracheostomy can also provide access to the lungs for removing secretions that interfere with breathing. Tracheostomies can be temporary or permanent.
The term tracheostomy is sometimes used interchangeably with the word tracheotomy, which refers to the procedure of making the incision in the windpipe.