Clogged Breathing Tube Nursing Home Neglect
Clogged Breathing Tube Nursing Home Neglect

Clogged Breathing Tube / G Tube  / J Tube / GJ Tube Attorney

As we get older it is not uncommon to develop complications involving our respiratory system and require intubation.  Many elderly patients in nursing home care will require a tracheotomy tube also known as a breathing tube in order to support life.  A clogged or obstructed breathing tube can often lead to brain damage or death.  Another risk to residents is from respirational pneumonia if food becomes lodged in their respiratory system.

It is the responsibility of the nursing home to ensure that their resident’s tracheal breathing tubes are properly placed and unobstructed and are cleaned regularly.  Failing to provide this care is a form of nursing home neglect which would be preventable in most situations.  Nursing Homes must have adequate numbers of well trained staff to assist with feeding and caring for the residents.

If someone you loved has suffered from an accident caused by an obstructed breathing tube, or feeding tube it is important to contact a nursing abuse attorney right away.

Why a Tracheotomy Tube / Breathing Tube Is Needed?

A tracheotomy tube or a breathing tube, is used to assist with providing oxygen for the resident. It is inserted into the trachea through a small cut in the neck called a stoma and acts as a patient’s life support. The need for a tracheotomy can be used for a number of different reasons and conditions affecting the lungs.  The main functions of a tracheal breathing tube are:

  • To relieve mechanical airway obstruction
  • To permit easy access for secretion removal
  • To protect the airway from aspiration due to impaired cough and gag reflexes
  • To provide mechanical ventilation

Hazards of an Obstructed Breathing Tube

A clogged breathing tube can have dire consequences.  If a breathing tube is obstructed with either food or bodily secretions, then the pathway oxygen is also blocked.  Being unable to breath and decreased oxygen levels for even a brief period of time can result in permanent brain damage, stroke and in certain instances, even death.  Other risks include respirational pneumonia, which is usually due to food or other substances getting into the lungs creating an infection often leading to death.  When a nurse of aide is unable to spend sufficient time in assisting with eating and drinking it is possible for the food and liquids to be either lodged in the tracheal tube or the resident’s airway and lungs.

An obstructed breathing tube is not the only complication surrounding tracheotomy tubes.  If the tubes are not properly maintained and cleaned, then there could be a risk of infection.  It is important that the nursing staff is adequately trained and use sterile technique to minimize this risk.

It is the responsibility of the nursing home to ensure that a resident receives quality care at the highest level practicable.  The nursing home resident and their tracheotmy tube must be properly monitored by the nursing staff and adequate care must be provided.  All residents will require different and particular care needs when it monitoring of their respiratory system.  This will depend on the hydration, humidity, infection and nutrition of the patient as well as the patient’s ability to cough and the patient’s level of competence.  No matter how much care a resident requires, the nursing home is responsible the necessary care or transferring the resident to a facility that is capable of providing the care and treatment.

Nursing homes across Minnesota have an obligation to comply with minimum care standards established by state and federal regulations.   Many times injuries occurring to residents of Minnesota nursing homes, assisted living and other types of elder care facilities is due to a corporate organization which is focused on maximizing profits at the expense of safety.   Many asphyxiation and tracheotomy breathing tube incidents resulting in serious injury or deaths could have been prevented with increased numbers of attentive and well qualified staff providing additional supervision.

Minnesota law requires that a nursing home must have on duty at all times a sufficient number of qualified nursing personnel, including registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and nursing assistants to meet the needs of the residents at all nurses’ stations, on all floors, and in all buildings if more than one building is involved.  This includes relief duty, weekends, and vacation replacements.

Minnesota Rule 4658.0015 states that a nursing home must operate and provide services in compliance with all applicable federal, state, and local laws, regulations, and codes, and with accepted professional standards and principles that apply to professionals providing services in a nursing home.

Minnesota Rule 4658.0105 mandates that a nursing home must ensure that direct care staff is able to demonstrate competency in skills and techniques necessary to care for residents’ needs, as identified through the comprehensive resident assessments and described in the comprehensive plan of care, and are able to perform their assigned duties.

Federal regulation Freedom from abuse, neglect and exploltation establishes a duty for the nursing home to ensure that the resident receives adequate supervision and assistive devices to prevent accidents:

42 CFR §483.25 (h) Accidents. The facility must ensure that—

(1) The resident environment remains as free of accident hazards as is possible; and

(2) Each resident receives adequate supervision and assistance devices to prevent accidents.

Freedom from abuse, neglect and exploltation. The facility must ensure that residents receive proper treatment and care for the following special services:

(1) Injections;
(2) Parenteral and enteral fluids;
(3) Colostomy, ureterostomy, or ileostomy care;
(4) Tracheostomy care;
(5) Tracheal suctioning;
(6) Respiratory care;
(7) Foot care; and
(8) Prostheses.

According to Minnesota Statute 626.5572, Subd. 3.  Accident. “Accident” means a sudden, unforeseen, and unexpected occurrence or event which:

(1) is not likely to occur and which could not have been prevented by exercise of due care; and

(2) if occurring while a vulnerable adult is receiving services from a facility, happens when the facility and the employee or person providing services in the facility are in compliance with the laws and rules relevant to the occurrence or event.

Despite the state and federal regulations designed to protect vulnerable adult, there are still an unacceptably high number of respirational pneumonia, dislodged or clogged tracheostomy breathing tube incidents in nursing homes due to inadequate staffing and training.

If someone you love has been seriously affected by an obstructed breathing tube, or by other nursing home neglect such as respiratory pneumonia, call for a free consultation explaining how you can hold the facility accountable.  No patient deserves this type of nursing home neglect.  Attorney Kenneth LaBore has years representing the victims of nursing home abuse and neglect and offers a free consultation with no fee unless there is a recovery from the wrongdoer, call locally at 612-743-9048 or toll free at 1-888-452-6589 or by email at