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Complication rates of open surgical versus percutaneous tracheostomy in critically ill patients. Johnson-Obaseki S(1), Veljkovic A(2), Javidnia.
Table of contents

While large well-conducted randomized controlled trials comparing PDT with ST are lacking, several studies and meta-analyses have compared the rates of complications—both at the time of insertion and longer term—between ST and PDT. PDT performed on the ICU may be associated with a reduced complication rate when compared with ST performed in theatre, but not when both procedures are performed on ICU, suggesting that transfer to theatre has an associated morbidity and mortality.

While an early meta-analysis found an increased incidence of perioperative death for the PDT group, subsequent meta-analyses and studies have not found any difference in ICU mortality between PDT and ST groups. Further investigations such as radiographs, computed tomography CT , ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging MRI may need to be undertaken if clinically indicated. PDT is usually a planned elective procedure, and it is good practice to discuss the merits and risks of the procedure with the patient's family and members of the multi-disciplinary team MDT. In some situations, it may be possible to include the patient in the discussions, conscious level, and capacity permitting.

There are several techniques that can be used to undertake PDT. The techniques described below all use the Seldinger method to insert a guide wire into the trachea. Capnography is now considered mandatory as it allows detection of accidental extubation, assessment of ventilation, and confirmation of correct tracheostomy placement. Using this approach, the tracheal tube is pulled back by the endoscopist either under direct vision with a laryngoscope or with the aid of the bronchoscope until it lies at the level of the laryngeal inlet.

The operator should employ an aseptic technique and prepare the skin overlying the neck with a chlorhexidine or iodine preparation. The area should be draped and local anaesthetic with epinephrine infiltrated subcutaneously, which will act to reduce bleeding.

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The anatomical landmarks of the cricoid cartilage and the sternal notch should be identified. A cannula or needle is then inserted into the trachea usually at the level of the second and third tracheal rings until air is aspirated. At the end of the procedure, fibreoptic bronchoscopy also allows the tracheostomy to be checked from above to ensure that the tube is adequately positioned with the cuff lying within the trachea and via the tracheostomy to ensure sufficient distance from the tip of the tracheostomy tube to the carina.

Preparation before PDT.

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In this technique, a cannula or needle is inserted into the trachea as described previously. The guide wire is then passed in a caudal direction before a primary dilator is passed over the wire to begin dilatation of the tract. A white plastic sheath is positioned over the wire to act as a guide for the dilators. The dilator must be inserted over the guiding catheter up to a safety ridge, this is necessary to prevent damage to the curved dilator tip and kinking of the guiding catheter.

Dilators of increasing size are used and once the tract is sufficiently dilated, a tracheostomy tube loaded onto the appropriately sized dilator is passed over the guide wire and plastic sheath into the patient's trachea. This is a modification of the Ciaglia technique and uses a single tapered dilator STD.

Percutaneous tracheostomy | BJA Education | Oxford Academic

This method was first described by Griggs and colleagues 9 whereby following insertion of the guide wire, dilator forceps are advanced alongside the wire and into the trachea. These forceps are then opened splitting the tracheal membrane to the desired diameter to allow insertion of the tracheostomy tube. This method had a low complication rate in a series reported from a large European centre.

This is a relatively new method and involves the same initial stages as the STD technique, but instead of a curved dilator a pressurized balloon is used to dilate the trachea to allow passage of the tracheostomy tube Fig. It is thought to reduce the incidence of posterior tracheal wall injury because of the radial rather than co-axial forces generated.

However, a recent study comparing the two techniques found that the Balloon Dilatational technique took longer to complete with increased intra-tracheal bleeding. The Blue dolphin balloon dilatation percutaneous tracheostomy. Translaryngeal tracheostomy TLT or the Fantoni technique, 12 though not technically a percutaneous method, should also be mentioned. In this technique, after insertion of the cannula or needle into the tracheal lumen the guide wire is directed cranially and out through the mouth.

The tracheal tube is replaced by a narrower tube to maintain ventilation. A special tracheostomy device is attached to the guide wire and drawn back internally through the airway and out to the surface of the neck through the opening formed by the introducer needle. This technique is not widely practised and there is limited evidence to suggest that it is superior to PDT or ST.

The optimal timing of tracheostomy insertion has been widely debated. The problems associated with prolonged tracheal intubation are well recognized; however, tracheostomy is not without risk. The argument for early tracheostomy Days 2—5 vs late Days 8—10 is centred on whether early tracheostomy reduces the duration of MV and complications such as ventilator-associated pneumonia VAP or mortality.

The evidence has been conflicting and is affected by heterogeneity in study populations and method of insertion. A retrospective review of more than 10 MV patients found that earlier tracheostomy before Day 10 was associated with a modest survival benefit, weaning from MV occurred more quickly, and ventilator-free days were more frequent. This finding was also seen in an Italian study that again found no improvement in the incidence of VAP. Complications are usually minor, but life-threatening bleeding, hypoxia, and airway obstruction have all been reported.

There is no standard definition of a tracheostomy-related complication and this is reflected in the reported complication rate in the literature, which varies from 2. Damage to nearby structures during PDT insertion can cause major bleeding, pneumothorax, and posterior tracheal wall damage.

Tracheal ring fracture, although thought to be a minor complication may result in granulation tissue formation because of the exposed cartilage and may predispose to tracheal stenosis. However, the relatively low complication rate of PDT insertion means that it is a safe and reliable procedure when performed on the ICU.

The displaced or blocked tracheostomy tube may cause dyspnoea, hypoxia, and rapid deterioration especially in critical care patients. There were 14 cases of displaced tracheostomies reported to NAP 4 with half of these resulting in death. Displacement often occurred during movement of patients, and a lack of capnography was seen as contributing to delays in recognition of there being a problem.

Obese patients were found to be particularly at risk and problems with standard tracheostomy sizes were highlighted. If a PDT is displaced within a week of insertion, a stable tract may not have been formed making re-insertion of the tracheostomy tube difficult and potentially hazardous. The safest option for managing the airway in such circumstances is to reintubate the trachea orally and reinsert the tracheostomy using a dilatational technique with bronchoscopic guidance.

Secretions, blood, or foreign bodies may cause tracheostomy blockage. The insertion of a tracheostomy with a removable inner is now recommended as it allows the tube to be easily changed and patency of the airway to be re-established in a controlled and safe manner.

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All patients who have PDT should be followed up after decannulation. Tracheal stenosis is the most serious complication and may originate from the cuff site—although regular cuff pressure monitoring may help to reduce this—or more usually the site of the stoma. Patients may present with stridor or dyspnoea although many are asymptomatic. Tracheal stenosis may not become clinically apparent until the patient is well enough to exercise and generate increased airflow within the trachea.

As such, symptoms may be gradual in onset and not initially attributed to the PDT. Referral to an ear nose and throat ENT specialist may be needed for further imaging, pan-endoscopy, and in some cases, tracheal reconstructive surgery. Difficulty swallowing, voice changes, and poor cough have also been reported but often improve with conservative measures.

Major tracheostomy-related complications are uncommon, but displaced and blocked tracheostomies are a cause of significant morbidity and mortality. While the insertion of a tracheostomy has the potential to improve some aspects of patient care, it is not without risk and should be carefully considered in all cases. There is little evidence to recommend early PDT in critically ill patients to facilitate weaning, reduce rates of VAP, or improve patient mortality. Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford.

Immediately after ICU discharge, 60 subjects Four subjects went home with support of domestic home care, and 5 subjects were referred to a nursing facility. Following subjects' or families' wishes, 2 subjects were referred to another acute care center.

In At the end of the study period, During the 2-y course, Most of the survivors Nearly half of all decannulations were done during the first month after discharge Only 2 subjects remained with their initial tracheostomy. Reasons were excessive granulations and tracheomalacia in 2 subjects, and in 3 subjects, long-term tracheostomies were felt to be necessary by an otolaryngologist. No medical rationales were given. No life-threatening adverse events, such as hypoxia or obstruction of the cannula, were reported in any of the 71 subjects.

Two subjects 2. When asked for complaints associated with the tracheostomy, Ten subjects One subject was in a vegetative state, and information from caregivers was incomplete. Subjects could choose multiple complaints. One subject presented with paralysis of the left vocal cord and unilateral dislocation of the arytenoid cartilage. Of the 2 subjects who still remained with their initial PDT until the end of the follow-up, one was in a vegetative state. A tracheal stenosis was suspected, but otolaryngologists did not see the need for surgical intervention.

The caregivers of the one subject who survived the follow-up and had a secondary surgical tracheostomy complained of recurrent infections of the stoma after surgical conversion. Before conversion, changing of the cannula was reported to be difficult, without an emergency situation being reported. In critical care medicine, bedside techniques for PDT are among the most common surgical procedures. Since its introduction to clinical medicine by Ciaglia et al, 9 PDT has become more popular and has nearly replaced traditional surgical tracheostomy, especially in patients undergoing prolonged mechanical ventilation and suffering from weaning failure.

In this study, we performed a 2-y follow-up in 71 subjects who had received PDT during their ICU stay and were discharged with the tracheal cannula in place.

Tracheotomy in the intensive care unit: guidelines from a French expert panel

Subjects included in our study came from a mixed cohort of our interdisciplinary surgical ICU. The majority were admitted due to cerebral insults or multiple trauma. Reviewing the literature, this seems to be the most common cause for receiving an elective tracheostomy in a surgical cohort. This is also in accordance with other centers' experiences.

We performed tracheostomy via a single-dilator technique using the modified Seldinger technique described by Ciaglia et al. Antonelli et al 19 followed subjects for 1 y after surgical or dilatational tracheostomy. After discharge, we found that a large number of the subjects in our study were decannulated in their course of recovery. More than half were decannulated during the first month after PDT, and Only 2 subjects remained with their cannula as discharged from the ICU.

Five subjects received a conversion to a surgical tracheostomy. However, only 2 of these had complaints related to their tracheostomy beforehand. In the 3 remaining subjects, health-care providers felt the conversion to be necessary as a prophylactic procedure. Reasons given were actually based on a traditional view of tracheostomies. In our study, subjects remaining with their initial PDT did not have severe complications.

Acute complications associated with the PDT procedure are well described and include bleeding, malpositioning, and pneumothorax. However, only a very few studies have addressed these issues, and it seems that tracheal stenosis is even more frequent in patients who have received a surgical tracheostomy. The authors give no information concerning reason for conversion and outcome of decannulated or converted cases.

Antonelli et al 19 report of an equivalent low rate of conversion to surgical tracheostomy.


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The authors report of an equivalent low rate of conversion. Four subjects requiring stomatoplasty; three due to tracheal stenosis and granuloma and one without such complications. Two showed tracheal lesions, but no surgical intervention was required. One could be decannulated, and one remained with the cannula due to a persistent vegetative state.

No data are given regarding the frequency of decannulation or the comfort or quality of life in this study. There was a large group of complaints that affected quality of life substantially like dysphagia, dysphonia, or dyspnea. However, none of these symptoms can be definitively attributed to the method of tracheostomy because a comparison of different methods has not been done in this study.

Dysphagia and dysphonia as well as reduced Glasgow outcome score might be attributable to the initial central nervous system damage. Additionally, long-term mechanical ventilation and critical illness are independent risk factors for the development of neurological dysfunctions like dysphagia.

Most subjects reported short incidences of dyspnea when suction was applied via the tracheostomy or during cannula changes. In one subject, dyspnea was clearly associated with the detected granulation of the trachea, and in another, it was associated with the paralysis of one vocal cord.

Dyspnea unrelated to suctioning events appeared in only 6. Dysphagia, dyspnea, dysphonia, and unaesthetic scars may all be found in PDT as well as in surgical tracheostomy. A comparison with other studies is difficult because we did not inspect or judge the size or appearance of the scars ourselves. There are multiple limitations to our study. Although this represents the largest long-term follow-up to date in the literature, the number of included subjects is rather small and from a single center only. Future studies should include randomization between surgical tracheostomy and PDT as well as a tracheal fiberoptic examination.

Therefore, the results should be interpreted with caution. In our study, we were able to follow 71 subjects who had received a PDT for 2 years after hospital discharge and evaluate the long-term outcome of PDT. To our knowledge, this is the largest group who has undergone a 2-y follow-up.

We found that most subjects could successfully be decannulated within the first 6 months. There was a high frequency of common symptoms after tracheostomy and very few subsequent surgical conversions of tracheostomy. Discharge of subjects after PDT seems to be safe as we found no severe post-discharge complications in our cohort. Therefore, PDT might be a possible alternative to the surgical approach even for patients with expected long-term cannulation. However, this hypothesis should be tested in a prospective study. NOTE: We only request your email address so that the person you are recommending the page to knows that you wanted them to see it, and that it is not junk mail.


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  • We do not capture any email address. Skip to main content. Research Article Original Research. Maria Theresa Voelker. Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine. Introduction Tracheostomy is a common procedure in ICUs. What this paper contributes to our knowledge In our 2 year follow-up of subjects who had received a PDT in the intensive care setting, most subjects could successfully be decannulated within the first 6 months.

    Methods This was a non-interventional observational cohort study including all patients who had received a PDT at the interdisciplinary surgical ICU of the University of Leipzig between October and August who were discharged alive. View this table: View inline View popup Download powerpoint.

    Table 1. Flow chart. Table 2. Baseline Characteristics. Tracheostomy Reasons for tracheostomy may be found in Table 2. Follow-Up Follow-up data of all 71 subjects are summarized in Table 3. Table 3. Table 4. Follow-up Data From Survivors Only. Discussion In critical care medicine, bedside techniques for PDT are among the most common surgical procedures. Conclusions In our study, we were able to follow 71 subjects who had received a PDT for 2 years after hospital discharge and evaluate the long-term outcome of PDT.

    E-mail: theresa. The authors have disclosed no conflicts of interest. Reference 1. A clinical description of extubation failure in patients with primary brain injury. Neurocrit Care ; 15 1 : 4 — Conventional weaning parameters do not predict extubation failure in neurocritical care patients. Neurocrit Care ; 10 3 : — Liberation of neurosurgical patients from mechanical ventilation and tracheostomy in neurocritical care. J Crit Care ; 27 4 : OpenUrl PubMed.

    Early versus late tracheostomy for critically ill patients.

    Percutaneous Tracheostomy

    Tracheostomy timing in traumatic brain injury: a propensity-matched cohort study. J Trauma Acute Care Surg ; 76 1 : 70 — 76 ; discussion Percutaneous and surgical tracheostomy in critically ill adult patients: a meta-analysis. Crit Care ; 18 6 : Tracheostomy procedures in the intensive care unit: an international survey.