The purpose of this study was to audit the results of percutaneous tracheostomies performed by ENT surgeons in Newcastle. During a 3-year period, 298 tracheostomies: 196 percutaneous and 102 open were studied. A complication rate for percutaneous tracheostomy was found to be 10% compared to 8% for open, this difference was not statistically significant chi 2 = 0.279, P = 0.598 (DF = 1). The indications for percutaneous tracheostomy were mainly limited to respiratory support for intensive care unit patients, whereas the majority of open tracheostomies were performed in the operating theatre. The results of this audit suggest that percutaneous tracheostomy is the method of choice for respiratory support in the intensive care unit and is as safe as the open technique.