Emergency percutaneous tracheostomy in trauma patients: an early experience

Ann Thorac Surg. 2004 Mar;77(3):1045-7. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2003.09.065.


Background: In recent years, percutaneous tracheostomy (PCT) has become a routine practice in many hospitals. In the early publications, most authors considered adverse conditions such as short or fat neck or obesity as relative contraindications, whereas cervical injury and emergency were regarded as absolute contraindications. More recently, several reports demonstrated the safety and feasibility of PCT in patients with some of the above contraindications. We, like many others, gradually reduced the contraindications and expanded the indications for PCT. In this paper, we report our early experience with emergency PCT in trauma patients.

Methods: Ten adult patients suffering from multiple injuries after motor vehicle accident (7) or severe head and neck burns (3) required emergency surgical airway control after failure to accomplish orotracheal intubation. A modified Griggs' technique was used by experienced thoracic surgeons. Recorded data included patient demographics, clinical and anatomic conditions, length of procedure, and complications. Short-term follow-up was performed in the hospital by thoracic staff surgeons. Long-term follow-up was carried out in the outpatient clinic.

Results: Six male and 4 female patients underwent emergency PCT. The mean time from skin incision to intubation was 5.5 minutes including the oxygen insufflation period. There was no failure, no procedure-related complication, and no conversion to open technique. Five patients survived and underwent uneventful decannulation. In approximately 1 year of follow-up, there were no clinical symptoms or signs of complications related to the tracheostomy.

Conclusions: Emergency PCT using a modified Griggs' technique is feasible and safe. In experienced hands, it might be even easier and faster than the open surgical tracheostomy.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic
  • Adult
  • Burns / surgery
  • Catheterization / methods
  • Emergency Medical Services / methods
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Multiple Trauma / surgery*
  • Tracheostomy / methods*