Role of skin-lined tracheotomy in obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome: personal experience

Acta Otorhinolaryngol Ital. 2004 Apr;24(2):68-74.


Permanent tracheotomy was the first surgical procedure proposed for the treatment of severe obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome and is still the only surgical option that ensures, even in very severe cases, complete elimination of apnoea and, in turn, clinical remission. Improved knowledge of the causes of obstructive sleep apnoea syndromes and the increasing therapeutic options (instrumental, medical and surgical) have resulted in cases requiring tracheotomy as the only indispensable therapeutic option becoming more rare. At present, the only indications are in very occasional conditions of life-threatening obstructive sleep apnoea syndromes and in patients on whom continuous positive airway pressure is not tolerated or is not effective (severe deoxygenation or hypercapnia, severe respiratory disorder index, severe obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome-related arrhythmias, severe excessive daytime sleepiness, heart diseases or ischaemic encephalopathy exacerbated by obstructive sleep apnoea syndromes, obstructive pneumopathy exacerbated by obstructive sleep apnoea syndromes, severe obstructive sleep apnoea syndromes with few chances of resolution with other surgical procedures or failure of the latter). Moreover, it is the only therapeutic solution in rare nocturnal laryngeal stridor due to multisystemic atrophy (in which obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome is due to nocturnal laryngospasm of neurologic origin). Therapeutic tracheotomy must be permanent (tracheostomy) and, therefore, preferably carried out with a specific technique (skin-lined tracheotomy), able to guarantee greater stability, less risk of granulation tissue, wider opening of the tracheostomy, sufficient reversibility. In our experience, very few patients (10 cases) withsleep disorder breathing have been submitted to skin-lined tracheotomy. Of these, the majority were submitted to surgery for severe apnoea due to nocturnal laryngospasm on account of multisystemic atrophy (n = 7), while only 3 cases of obstructive sleep apnoea syndromes were submitted to skin-lined tracheotomy, i.e., 0.7% of the 424 patients operated on for obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome and 1.7% of the 175 operated on for severe, or very severe, obstructive sleep apnoea syndromes (RDI > 40). Skin-lined tracheotomy was not followed by important complications and expected results were achieved with immediate disappearance of daytime symptoms and considerable improvement in nocturnal apnoea. Besides sleep-related disorders, numerous clinical situations with indications for a permanent tracheotomy may benefit from the skinlined technique, such as severe laryngeal or tracheal stenoses, laryngeal diplegias, miasthenia gravis, lateral amyotrophic sclerosis, intractable aspiration, severe emphysema.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / complications
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / diagnosis
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / surgery*
  • Time Factors
  • Tracheotomy / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome