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When an individual needs to have a hole cut in his or her trachea, a tube known as a tracheostomy tube is inserted in the hole to make it possible for the individual to breathe. Sometimes, tracheostomy tubes are placed temporarily, such as for the duration of a tracheostomy procedure. In other cases, they are permanent. Nursing home patients who cannot breathe on their own may have permanent tracheostomy tubes inserted and used with ventilators to help them breathe.

Nursing home staff members have the duty to keep residents safe and healthy. When a staff member neglects to clean and monitor patients’ breathing tubes regularly or a nursing home fails to adequately train its staff in the correct cleaning and monitoring of tracheostomy tubes, the facility can be liable for any resulting damages the patients or their families face. Permitting neglect to occur or neglecting to have a properly trained staff is negligence on the facility’s part.


Fluid from the patient’s lungs can build up in tracheostomy tubes over time. Properly trained staff members must monitor their patients’ tubes regularly, inspecting them for buildup and suctioning the buildup out as needed. Staff members must also inspect the tubes and intubation sites regularly to ensure that the tubes are operating properly and that the patients’ intubation sites do not become infected.


A clogged breathing tube poses an obvious, and very serious, health risk: the lack of a clear passageway for the patient to breath through. A partially blocked breathing tube can make the patient’s lungs and heart work harder, putting dangerous stress on the patient’s body. A totally blocked breathing tube can cut off the patient’s oxygen supply completely, putting him or her at risk of respiratory arrest and death.

Oxygen deprivation can lead to other complications, too. These include brain damage and damage to other organs.

When a clogged breathing tube causes the intubation site to become infected, the skin at the site of the infection can become red and painful. Discharge might also appear at the intubation site.

It is extremely important that caregivers are proactive about checking and cleaning patients’ tracheostomy tubes. Many patients who rely on these tubes to breathe cannot speak because the tubs pass through their vocal cords. When this is the case, the patient is completely dependent on his or her caregivers to ensure that the tube remains free of blockage.


Often, nursing home residents cannot advocate for themselves. If your loved one’s health worsened or if he or she suffered an injury because of a blocked tracheostomy tube, it is your job to advocate for your loved one by filing a nursing home neglect claim with the facility’s insurance provider. In addition to filing a claim, you should make a complaint to the Minnesota Department of Health Adult Abuse Reporting Center. This will not only support your claim, it will bring the neglect to the state’s attention and ideally, protect other residents in the facility from future instances of neglect.

Through a nursing home neglect claim, you can seek compensation for the following damages on your loved one’s behalf:

  • His or her medical expenses;
  • His or her emotional trauma;
  • The cost of moving your loved one into a new facility;
  • His or her reduced quality of life because of the neglect; and
  • Punitive damages for the facility’s negligence.

Following a death related to a blocked breathing tube, the victim’s family members may file a wrongful death claim to seek compensation for all damages related to the death. This can include compensation for the victim’s medical bills, compensation for his or her burial and funeral expenses, and compensation for the filing party’s emotional trauma surrounding the victim’s death.

Recovering compensation requires you to provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate that your loved one’s injury or death was the direct result of a caregiver’s negligence. Evidence you can use to support this claim can include:

  • Documentation from your loved one’s doctor explaining the nature of his or her injury;
  • A copy of your loved one’s autopsy report;
  • Photographs of the blocked breathing tube or the infection at the intubation site;
  • Testimonies from others who saw your loved one struggle with a blocked breathing tube, such as other residents, other staff members, and other residents’ family members who were present in the facility; and
  • Any proof that shows that your loved one’s caregiver was not qualified to monitor his or her tracheostomy tube, such as the caregiver’s lack of documentation showing that he or she had been trained to monitor that type of medical equipment.

Additionally, you will need to provide records of the expenses you and your loved one’s estate suffered, such as copies of his or her medical bills.


If your loved one’s health suffered or he or she died because of a clogged breathing tube that could have been prevented if a caregiver had been more vigilant, you could be entitled recover monetary compensation for his or her damages as well as your own through a nursing home neglect claim. To learn more about pursuing this type of compensation, contact our team of experienced MN attorney for nursing home neglect at Kosieradzki Smith Law Firm LLC today to schedule your initial consultation.


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