Background: To assess the safety of percutaneous dilational tracheostomy (PDT) performed by experienced operators in critically ill patients with liver disease and coagulopathy.
Methods: Prospective cohort study in a ten bed specialist liver intensive care unit of a tertiary university teaching hospital. Sixty consecutive patients in need of tracheostomy insertion. Patients were categorized as having refractory coagulopathy if their platelet count was < or = 50 x 10(9) cells/L or the INR > 1.5 on the day of and the subsequent 72 hours following PDT despite clotting support.
Results: Twenty five patients fulfilled the definition criteria of refractory coagulopathy. There was no significant difference in the number of adverse incidents between groups. Only 1 patient in the coagulopathy group had a severe bleeding complication, however this did not require open surgical intervention. The rate of clinically relevant early complications in all patients was not higher than expected (n = 7, 12%). Resource utilisation was higher for patients with coagulopathy, who received significantly more platelet transfusions over the 3 day period (80 vs 49 units, p = 0.009) and demonstrated a trend towards increased fresh frozen plasma requirements (p = 0.059). The number of patients requiring platelet transfusion was higher in the coagulopathy group (21/25 versus 20/35 p = 0.029). Hospital survival did not differ between groups.
Conclusion: PDT is safe and not contraindicated in patients with severe liver disease and refractory coagulopathy.