Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa is undergoing treatment in Chennai's Apollo Hospitals for the last two months

Jayalalithaa on Tracheostomy Tube: What is Tracheostomy?


Apollo doctors said Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa is able to speak with the help of a valve attached to the tracheostomy (a tube and attached valve for communication), which is a temporary phase as it entails holding breath while talking.

Otherwise, Jayalalithaa is recovering as per the normal course, said Apollo Hospitals Chairman Dr Prathap C Reddy in Chennai on Friday. She has been in hospital for more than two months since September 22. A special team of doctors including a specialist from the UK are attending on her in the Apollo Hospitals’ Intensive Care Unit or ICU. She was shifted to a special room last weekend to a special room with larger space.

Patients with tracheostomy normally cannot speak. A speaker has been attached so that she could speak “but it is not easy for a person to speak with a speaker because they have to hold their breath,” he explined to the reporters.

He reiterated that the tracheostomy may be permanent and the ailing chief minister need not undergo special therapy to train her to use and speak using the speaker tube.

Tracheostomy involves an operation by cutting open the neck below the Adam’s apple or the vocal cords and placing a tube in the opening for air to go in and out, instead of using the mouth and nose. For some, a tracheostomy is short-term. For others, it is long-lasting attachment.

The problem with tracheostomy is that the air goes into lungs unfiltered with the debris adds to buildup of fluids and secretions in the lungs, which requires constant cleaning. Since the tube cannot let patients speak the way normal people do, they can make a few sounds by holding breath but quickly run out of air.

Because of the design of the ventilator, speech occurs when air is pushed out of the body, the sounds may suddenly become louder or softer. Their speech may be improved by making simple adjustments to ventilator settings, if breathing insufficiency is taken care of.

Dr Reddy sounded optimistic when he said, “If you ask me when that will happen, I told you she is a very strong Chief Minister, she has a very strong mind and she will tell you all. Not me… I am glad to say that at Apollo with a wonderful team of doctors they could give back all of the organs which had severe problems. It is all solved now and all that is happening is for her to return to normalcy.”


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