Context: Tracheotomy is used to replace endotracheal intubation in patients requiring prolonged ventilation; however, there is considerable variability in the time considered optimal for performing tracheotomy. This is of clinical importance because timing is a key criterion for performing a tracheotomy and patients who receive one require a large amount of health care resources.
Objective: To determine the effectiveness of early tracheotomy (after 6-8 days of laryngeal intubation) compared with late tracheotomy (after 13-15 days of laryngeal intubation) in reducing the incidence of pneumonia and increasing the number of ventilator-free and intensive care unit (ICU)-free days.
Design, setting, and patients: Randomized controlled trial performed in 12 Italian ICUs from June 2004 to June 2008 of 600 adult patients enrolled without lung infection, who had been ventilated for 24 hours, had a Simplified Acute Physiology Score II between 35 and 65, and had a sequential organ failure assessment score of 5 or greater.
Intervention: Patients who had worsening of respiratory conditions, unchanged or worse sequential organ failure assessment score, and no pneumonia 48 hours after inclusion were randomized to early tracheotomy (n = 209; 145 received tracheotomy) or late tracheotomy (n = 210; 119 received tracheotomy).
Main outcome measures: The primary endpoint was incidence of ventilator-associated pneumonia; secondary endpoints during the 28 days immediately following randomization were number of ventilator-free days, number of ICU-free days, and number of patients in each group who were still alive.
Results: Ventilator-associated pneumonia was observed in 30 patients in the early tracheotomy group (14%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 10%-19%) and in 44 patients in the late tracheotomy group (21%; 95% CI, 15%-26%) (P = .07). During the 28 days immediately following randomization, the hazard ratio of developing ventilator-associated pneumonia was 0.66 (95% CI, 0.42-1.04), remaining connected to the ventilator was 0.70 (95% CI, 0.56-0.87), remaining in the ICU was 0.73 (95% CI, 0.55-0.97), and dying was 0.80 (95% CI, 0.56-1.15).
Conclusion: Among mechanically ventilated adult ICU patients, early tracheotomy compared with late tracheotomy did not result in statistically significant improvement in incidence of ventilator-associated pneumonia.
Trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00262431.