Tracheostomy Complications

While some people have a tracheostomy (commonly called a “trach”) for a limited period of time, others have a permanent trach. This is often the case when the person’s trachea has been surgically removed due to cancer or is too narrow for normal breathing, which can be caused by scarring from intubation. Whatever the cause, nursing homes must provide special attention to trach patients.

Most trach patients cannot breathe if their trach tubes (inner cannula) become dislodged. Our Jacksonville nursing home neglect attorneys have handled three cases involving wrongful death due to a nursing home resident’s tracheostomy tube becoming dislodged. In handling these cases, we have learned that not every nursing home is able to appropriately care for residents with trachs.

Because of this, our analysis starts at the admissions stage. Did the nursing home determine what the resident’s trach needs and prior complications were? Do they have respiratory and speech therapists on staff? Are staff nurses trained on what to do if a trach tube comes out? Is the equipment necessary to replace a trach tube easily accessible? Often the answers to each of these questions is “no,” yet the nursing home admitted the person anyhow.

Routine trach care is needed to keep the trach tubing free from secretions which can block the tube preventing the patient from being able to breathe. Frequent and thorough suctioning is a must. It is necessary that the nursing home staff document each time suctioning is performed. If a resident experiences excessive or thick mucus, the resident’s doctor must be informed. Excessive mucus can eventually lead to a complete blockage and inability to breathe.

In two cases we handled, the staff was not aware of how to perform CPR on a trach resident. If the person’s natural airway has too much scarring to allow sufficient air to pass, performing CPR orally will not suffice. Again, trach care is complicated and should not be attempted by a nursing home that does not have the resources, training and staff to do so.

In the tracheostomy cases we have handled, the nursing home staff were also unaware of how to re-insert a dislodged trach. While preferably done in a hospital setting, in an emergency, replacing the trach allows the airway to open providing the resident with much needed oxygen.

Before placing a trach dependent loved one in a nursing home it is vitally important to determine if the nursing home is well suited. We recommend you discuss the nursing home’s trach experience with the Director of Nursing. Questions to ask include: how many trach patients typically reside in the nursing home?; do they have a respiratory therapist on staff?; do they have equipment at the ready to re-insert a trach in the event of emergency? If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” you should keep looking.

If you or a loved one suffered injury or death as a result of nursing home’s failure to properly manage a tracheostomy, please call our Jacksonville nursing home neglect attorneys for a free case evaluation. We have the experience and expert witnesses needed to properly prosecute injuries or death cases resulting from a tracheostomy complication. Our Jacksonville and St. Augustine nursing home abuse lawyers can meet with you in person, via Zoom or over the phone. If we accept your case, you pay us nothing out-of-pocket unless we make a recovery for you.

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