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8 Year Old Katelyn

Tracheostomy Home Ventilator Program turns 30

This year marks 30 years that Children’s Wisconsin has operated our Tracheostomy/Home Ventilator Program. Since 1984, we have served over 700 children and their families, and have become the premier program of its kind in the region.

A tracheostomy is a surgical procedure that inserts a tube into the trachea, or windpipe, to allow for the passage of air and the removal of secretions. Instead of breathing through the nose and mouth, the child from then on breathes through the tracheostomy tube.

There can be many reasons that a child might need a tracheostomy, including airway obstruction, congenital abnormalities of the airway, chronic lung disease from premature birth, or chronic respiratory failure from muscle weakness. Such complex care requires expertise from several kinds of specialists, and that’s exactly what we provide at Children’s Wisconsin.

Our comprehensive approach

Our team consists of specialists from several disciplines: pulmonologists, otolaryngologists (ENTs), respiratory therapists, an advanced practice nurse, a nurse clinician, registered nurses, speech therapists, nutritionists and social workers. This comprehensive approach allows our team to follow children and their families through all phases of care, whether the child is in the hospital or at home.

Our passion for education and research

We’re also dedicated to staying on top of the latest developments in the field. This shows through in our passion for education and research. We train not only families, caregivers and home care nurses, but also physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists on the best methods of care. We have multiple ongoing research projects, including evaluation of the best way to treat skin breakdown, earlier use of speaking valves in our younger patients, and ways to improve timing to decannulation (the removal of the tracheostomy tube).

We’re expecting to provide ongoing care for over 160 children this year across four states, and look forward to serving patients and their families for the next 30 years and beyond.