Indications, complications, and surgical techniques for pediatric tracheostomies--an update

J Pediatr Surg. 2002 Nov;37(11):1556-62. doi: 10.1053/jpsu.2002.36184.


Background: With the decrease of life-threatening obstructive upper airway infections and the ongoing improvement of intensive care medicine, the role of tracheostomy in children has been changing considerably, until now. The aim of this study was to establish data regarding indications, complications, and techniques of pediatric tracheostomy, which would reflect the current state of science.

Methods: The authors analyzed the international literature as well as their own experience with 25 children less than 6 years of age who were operated on between 1980 and 1996.

Results: Literature proved to be very heterogeneous in terms of terminology, patient groups, operation techniques, indications, and complications. Within the past decades, long-term intubation and congenital anomalies of the upper respiratory tract have become increasingly prevalent, whereas inflammatory diseases were less and less an indication for tracheostomy. Endotracheal intubation as an alternative has resulted in less frequent tracheostomies in general. Today, children can be ventilated for months without considerable complications. However, individual, clinical, and fiberoptical controls are necessary. Tracheostomy-related complications have not changed significantly. Fatalities are mostly caused by the underlying disease. The most frequent causes of tracheostomy-related death are cannula obstruction and accidental decannulation. The most frequent early complications are pneumomediastinum, pneumothorax, wound complications, and bleedings. Subsequent complications most often are granulations and tracheal stenosis.

Conclusions: The authors' research agreed widely with that in the literature. However, no tracheostomy-related death occurred. Possibly, this was because of their operative technique. In the opinion of the authors, establishing a cartilage window facilitates cannula exchange and reduces the risk of a fatal accidental decannulation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Constriction, Pathologic / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / surgery
  • Male
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / etiology
  • Survival Rate
  • Trachea / abnormalities
  • Tracheal Diseases / classification
  • Tracheal Diseases / surgery
  • Tracheostomy / adverse effects
  • Tracheostomy / methods*
  • Tracheostomy / mortality
  • Tracheostomy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Treatment Outcome