Common vocabulary terms used by physicians and staff.


Aerosol – A breathing treatment to deliver medication in a mist that is absorbed in the lungs. Also called Nebulizer treatment.

APN– Advanced Practice Nurse

Apnea – Abnormal pauses in breathing lasting longer than 15 to 20 seconds. This can cause the breathing monitor to alarm and alert you to check your child's breathing.

Apnea monitor – A machine that sounds an alarm when an infant stops breathing

Artificial airway – Another word for tracheostomy tube

Artificial nose – See HME


Bacteria – Germs

BPM – Breaths per minute

Bradycardia – A slow heartbeat

Bronchoscopy – An examination performed by a doctor using a small tube inserted into the nose or mouth to view the inside of the trachea, bronchi and air passages


Cartilage –Tough tissue rings that the windpipe is made of

Catheter – Tube used to remove or inject fluids into the body

CBC – Complete blood count

CO2 (carbon dioxide) – Gas that the body eliminates through the lungs

– A device that provides Continuous Positive Airway Pressure while your child is breathing to prevent airway collapse

CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) – A method for getting someone to breath again once they have stopped

Cyanosis – A bluish color to the lips or skin that happens when the oxygen level in the blood is low


Decannulate – Removal of the tracheostomy tube when your child no longer needs the tracheostomy

DME – Durable medical equipment

Dysphagia – Difficulty swallowing

Dyspnea – Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath


ENT doctor – Ear, nose, and throat doctor

Epiglottis – A flap of tissue covering the opening of the larynx (voice box) during swallowing to prevent food or fluid from entering the lungs

Exhale – Breathe out

Expiration – Breathe out


Fistula – An abnormal tube-like passage from one body cavity to another


GO BAG – Portable emergency equipment that must always be carried with your child as long as your child has a tracheostomy

Granuloma (Granulation tissue) – Growth of new tissue in or around the tracheostomy stoma. A granuloma may bleed if irritated or cause obstruction to the trach tube if it grows too big. May be treated with Silver Nitrate to help shrink excessive growth.


HME – Heat and Moisture Exchanger, also called the artificial nose; a small plastic device that fits on your child's trach tube that provides portable humidification

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) – A mild antiseptic and cleansing agent

Hypoventilation – Reduced rate and depth of breathing

Hypoxia – Low oxygen level in the body


IEP – Individual Education Plan

Inhale – Breathe in

Inspiration – Breathe in


Laryngectomy – Removal of the larynx

Laryngomalacia – A condition that occurs when the structures of the larynx are abnormally soft or floppy and collapse inward during breathing causing obstruction of air flow

Laryngoscopy – Examination of the interior of the larynx with a scope

Laryngotracheoplasty (LTP) – Laryngeal and tracheal reconstructive surgery

Larynx – The area located above the trachea containing the vocal cords. The function of the larynx is to protect the airway when the vocal cords are closed and to produce voice when air passes through the vocal cords. Also called the voice box.

LPN – Licensed Practical Nurse. The LPN works with the case manager to provide private duty nursing.


Malacia – Abnormal softness or floppiness of a part of the airway that collapses inward during breathing

MAP – Mean airway pressure

MDI – Metered dose inhaler

mm – Millimeter

Mucous (mucus) – Slippery fluid produced in the lungs and windpipe


Nebulizer machine – A machine that delivers medicine in a mist that is absorbed in the lungs, the medicine is then inhaled into the airways

NICU – Neonatal Intensive Care Unit


O2 – Oxygen

Obturator – Part of the tracheostomy tube to help guide it into the opening in the neck

OT – Occupational Therapist

Otolaryngologist – Ear, nose, and throat doctor


PDN – Private Duty Nurse or Private Duty Nursing

PEC – Pediatric Extended Care

PEEP – Positive End Expiratory Pressure

PICU – Pediatric Intensive Care Unit

PIP – Peak inspiratory pressure

Pneumonia – A disease of the lungs characterized by inflammation and consolidation followed by resolution and caused by infection or irritants

PT – Physical Therapist

Pulmonologist – Lung doctor


Resuscitator bag – Plastic device used to inflate the lungs of someone not breathing on their own. Used to give extra breaths between suctioning or ventilator tubing changes.

Retractions – Pulling in at the chest during breathing

RN – Registered Nurse

RT (RCP) – Respiratory Therapist or Respiratory Care Practitioner


Saline – Normal saline or 0.9% sodium chloride solution similar to water found in the body

Secretions – Another word for mucous

Sinusitis – An inflammation of the sinus

SLP (Speech and Language Pathologist) – A person trained to help with speaking and swallowing problems

Speaking valve – A one-way valve that lets air come in through the tracheostomy tube, but then sends it out past the vocal cords and mouth to make talking possible

Stenosis – Narrowing or constriction of a segment of the airway that causes obstruction of airflow. Most commonly stenosis is in the area below the epiglottis or trachea causing noisy breathing (stridor) or shortness of breath.

Sterile – Free from germs

Stoma – The opening made at the front of the neck into which the tracheostomy tube is placed

Stridor – Noisy breathing usually caused by obstruction of air through the airway

Subglottic stenosis – Narrowing or constriction of the airway below the epiglottis

Suctioning – A catheter tubing is inserted into the tracheostomy tube and mucous or secretions is removed from the tracheostomy using a suction machine

Suction machine – A machine used to suction the trach tube so that mucous in the trach tube will not block air flow through the tube


Tachycardia – A rapid heartbeat

Trach – Short for tracheostomy tube

Trachea – The part of the airway between the voice box and the lungs. Also called the windpipe

Tracheomalacia – Abnormal softening or floppiness of the tissue in the windpipe causing collapse and obstruction to airflow

Tracheostomy – An opening in the windpipe or trachea for breathing through instead of breathing through the nose or mouth

Tracheostomy ties – Velcro ties that are placed around the neck holding the tracheostomy tube securely in the windpipe


URI – Upper respiratory infection


VE – Exhaled minute volume

Ventilator – A mechanical device to assist breathing that moves air and oxygen in and out of the lungs. Also called a respirator or breathing machine.

Vocal cords – Two strips of tissue in the voice box in the neck

VTE – Exhaled tidal volume


WIC – Women, Infants, and Children, WIC, is a special supplemental nutrition program