Tracheostomy in young patients: indications and long-term outcome

Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2009 May;266(5):705-11. doi: 10.1007/s00405-008-0796-4. Epub 2008 Sep 3.


Diagnostic and treatment modalities have changed substantially over the past years in the field of pediatrics and neonatal medicine. As a result, the indications and outcome after tracheostomy in young patients have evolved. The aim of this study is to present our experience with pediatric tracheostomies and provide an up-to-date review of the literature with special focus on current trends. The complete medical records of 85 children and adolescents (up to age 18) which underwent tracheostomy from January 1990 until March 2008 were reviewed. Telephone interviews were conducted to evaluate the childrens further clinical course. The indications for tracheostomy were upper airway obstruction (27%), craniofacial syndromes (3.5%), long-term mechanical ventilation (22.3%), neurological deficit (25.9%), trauma and sequelae (16.5%) and bilateral vocal cord paralysis (4.7%). The average age of patients at the time of tracheostomy was 4.7 years (range, 2 days-18 years) but there were significant differences between the six indication groups. Children under the age of 7 years comprised 72.9% of all patients. The mean cannulation time was 21.6 months; 50.6% of the patients could be successfully decannulated. Life-threatening complications occurred in 6 patients (7%). The total mortality rate was 18.8%; the tracheostomy related mortality rate was 0%. In the past 30 years, short-term tracheostomy was commonly performed for infectious causes such as epiglottitis. Nowadays, the majority of patients are very young children with severe and chronic diseases. This fact accounts for the relatively low decannulation rates, long cannulation times and high mortality. The tracheostomy related mortality on the other hand, is comparatively low.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Tracheostomy / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome