Lungs are vital organs. They are responsible for providing oxygen to your body as you breathe in and releases carbon dioxide when you breathe out. Before surgery, you would breathe through your nose, mouth and throat – called the upper airway. Your nose does more than smell. It conditions the air you breathe by heating, moisturising, and filtering the air. This is important as your lungs need conditioned air to help them work effectively.
After your tracheotomy, you will breathe through a tracheostoma in your neck. This means the air you breathe in bypasses the upper airway and is, therefore, unconditioned air. As a result, this unconditioned air is cold and dry and so may affect your lungs and airways. It may lead to more and thicker mucus, increased coughing, and an increased risk for airway infections.
Luckily, Heat and Moisture Exchangers (HMEs) have been designed to help your lungs, by warming up and humidifying the air you breathe in. In this way, the HME works similarly to how the upper airway used to do before the surgery.