Background: Unplanned extubation events (UEE) are a serious hazard to patient safety, especially on a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where reestablishing a secure airway can be difficult. The following study was undertaken to analyze characteristics of UEE and develop prevention strategies.
Methods: A retrospective cohort study on a level III single center NICU was undertaken. Patient records of a 12-month period from December 2003 to December 2004 were analyzed using a standardized evaluation form. Fischer's exact t-test and the Mann-Whitney U-Ranked Sum test were used for statistical analysis.
Results: One hundred and four neonates with a total ventilation time of 14 495 h were included in this study. Of these patients 12 UEE were observed (1 UEE/1208 h of ventilation time). Neither median birth weight [1445 g (range 460-4650) vs 1755 g (range 460-3570 g)] nor median gestational age [31.5 weeks (range 25.6-39.6 weeks) vs 32.7 weeks (range 23.9-41.5 weeks)] differed significantly between neonates with UEE compared with the total group. When the UEE occurred, the neonates were cared for by experienced nursing staff with a median of 10 years nursing experience. The workload for the individual nurse was high: during shifts when UEE happened, each nurse had to take care of 3.85 patients (range 1.8-5 patients). This workload was higher than the average of 3 (range 1.6-6) patients/nurse during the study period. The most frequently reported reason for UEE was difficult fixation of the tracheal tube (TT) (four patients), followed by handling of the infant by nursing staff or physiotherapy (two patients) or an active infant in whom dislocation of the TT occurred without external manipulations (three patients). In three instances, the reason for the UEE was not documented. Of the 12 UEE observed in 10 patients, three required immediate reintubation, five were managed with nasal continuous positive airway pressure and four did not require further respiratory support. Of those who required support, FiO(2) increased by 14% over baseline compared with the FiO(2) prior to UEE.
Conclusions: Inadequate TT fixation could be identified as the main contributor to UEE and should be targeted in prevention strategies. The reintubation rate after UEE was only 25%. Overall, UEE did not result in an adverse outcome in terms of mortality. Length of stay on NICU was significantly longer in UEE patients.