Percutaneous tracheostomy--special considerations

Clin Chest Med. 2003 Sep;24(3):409-12. doi: 10.1016/s0272-5231(03)00045-5.


Percutaneous tracheostomy is safe and highly effective in well-trained hands in establishing a long-term artificial airway. Most alleged contraindications and some suggestions on how the procedures should be performed likely stem from early trials when only "perfect candidates" were chosen. Most of those contraindications should not be viewed as prohibitions, but as suggestions related to the skill level and training of the operator. We have used this technique in many situations where the small incision and tamponading effect of the tracheostomy tube has been quite beneficial, in selected patients with coagulapathies and severe venous congestion from superior cava syndromes as well as thyroid cancers, and in whom operative approaches would have been difficult. Knowing one's level of expertise and comfort in choosing and rejecting patients and procedures accordingly is the key to keeping PT a procedure with an excellent safety record. As the experience with PT grows, more and more perceived contraindications will disappear. Studies will address the role of PT in children and as a means of establishing emergent airway access. Also, the exact coagulation limits will need to be established. Few contraindications will most likely remain absolute, such as active infections over the proposed entry site, uncontrollable bleeding disorders and excessive ventilatory and oxygenation requirements. In our institution, taking into account these absolute contraindications, fewer than 5% of patients in need of a tracheostomy in the intensive care unit will undergo a primary open procedure.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bronchoscopy
  • Equipment Design
  • Humans
  • Obesity, Morbid / epidemiology
  • Reoperation
  • Tracheostomy / adverse effects
  • Tracheostomy / methods*