Percutaneous tracheostomy placement with external laser light transillumination identifies proper tracheal orientation and improves surgeon insertion confidence

Am J Surg. 2007 Sep;194(3):409-12. doi: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2006.10.036.


Complications of percutaneous tracheostomy include bleeding, loss of airway control, inadvertent injury to surrounding structures, and equipment damage, all of which can be attributed to poor visualization and inaccurate orientation. Initially, we performed percutaneous tracheostomy in the intensive care unit setting using the single-dilator technique with video bronchoscopy without external transillumination. During our first 30 procedures, the video bronchoscope was damaged in four instances, requiring costly repairs each time. To decrease the potential for uncertainty, loss of airway control, and equipment damage, the investigators developed a technique incorporating an external laser light source to transilluminate the trachea to accurately identify the correct and appropriate orientation. Since integration of the external transillumination technique, no additional video bronchoscopes have been damaged in 100 subsequent procedures. We conclude transillumination using an external laser light source is useful in identifying the tracheostomy insertion site. This tool decreases instrument damage and improves surgeon confidence during percutaneous tracheostomy placement.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Lasers
  • Trachea / anatomy & histology
  • Tracheostomy / methods*
  • Tracheostomy / standards
  • Transillumination* / methods