Background: Tracheostomy is increasingly performed in intensive care units (ICU), with many patients transferred to respiratory ICU (RICU). Indications/timing for closing tracheostomy are discussed.
Aim and method: We report results of a one-year survey evaluating: 1) clinical characteristics, types of tracheostomy, complications in patients admitted to Italian RICU in 2006; 2) clinical criteria and systems for performing decannulation, and outcome of patients undergoing tracheostomy (number decannulated; number non-decannulated/non-ventilated; number non-decannulated/ventilated; dead/lost patients).
Results: 22/32 RICUs replied. There were 846 admissions of 719 patients (Mean age 64,3 (+/-14.2) years, 489 (68%) males). Causes of admission were: acute respiratory failure with underlying chronic co-morbidities 176 (24.4%); exacerbation of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 222 (34.4%); neuromuscular diseases 200 (27.8%); surgical patients 77 (10.7%); thoracic dysmorphism 28 (3.8%); obstructive sleep apnea syndrome 16 (2.2%). Percutaneous tracheostomies were 65.9%. Major complications after tracheostomy were 2%. 427 tracheostomies were evaluated for decannulation: 96 (22.5%) were closed; 175 patients (41%) were discharged with home mechanical ventilation; 114 patients (26.5%) maintained the tracheostomy despite weaning from mechanical ventilation and 42 patients (10%) died or lost. The clinical criteria chosen for decannulation were: stability of respiratory conditions, effective cough, underlying diseases and ability to swallow. The systems for evaluating feasibility of decannulation were: closure of tracheostomy tube; laryngo-tracheoscopy; use of tracheal button and down-sizing.
Conclusions: There were few major complications of tracheostomy. A substantial proportion of patients maintain the tracheostomy despite not requiring mechanical ventilation. There was no agreement on indications and systems for closing tracheostomy.