Early percutaneous tracheotomy versus prolonged intubation of mechanically ventilated patients after cardiac surgery: a randomized trial

Ann Intern Med. 2011 Mar 15;154(6):373-83. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-154-6-201103150-00002.


Background: Whether early percutaneous tracheotomy in patients who require prolonged mechanical ventilation can shorten mechanical ventilation duration and lower mortality remains controversial.

Objective: To compare the outcomes of severely ill patients who require prolonged mechanical ventilation randomly assigned to early percutaneous tracheotomy or prolonged intubation.

Design: Prospective, randomized, controlled, single-center trial (ClinicalTrials.gov registration number: NCT00347321).

Setting: Academic center.

Patients: 216 adults requiring mechanical ventilation 4 or more days after cardiac surgery.

Intervention: Immediate early percutaneous tracheotomy or prolonged intubation with tracheotomy 15 days after randomization.

Measurements: The primary end point was the number of ventilator-free days during the first 60 days after randomization. Secondary outcomes included 28-, 60-, or 90-day mortality rates; durations of mechanical ventilation, intensive care unit stay, and hospitalization; sedative, analgesic, and neuroleptic use; ventilator-associated pneumonia rate; unscheduled extubations; comfort and ease of care; and long-term health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and psychosocial evaluations.

Results: There was no difference in ventilator-free days during the first 60 days after randomization between early percutaneous tracheotomy and prolonged intubation groups (mean, 30.4 days [SD, 22.4] vs. 28.3 days [SD, 23.7], respectively; absolute difference, 2.1 days [95% CI, -4.1 to 8.3 days]) nor in 28-, 60-, or 90-day mortality rates (16% vs. 21%, 26% vs. 28%, and 30% vs. 30%, respectively). The durations of mechanical ventilation and hospitalization, as well as frequencies of ventilator-associated pneumonia and other severe infections, were also similar. However, early percutaneous tracheotomy was associated with less intravenous sedation; less time of heavy sedation; less haloperidol use for agitation, delirium, or both; fewer unscheduled extubations; better comfort and ease of care; and earlier resumption of oral nutrition. After a median follow-up of 873 days, between-group survival, psychosocial evaluations, and HRQoL were similar.

Limitation: The prolonged intubation group had more ventilator-free days during days 1 to 60 than what was hypothesized (mean, 23.0 days [SD, 17.0]).

Conclusion: Early tracheotomy provided no benefit in terms of mechanical ventilation and length of hospital stay, rates of mortality or infectious complications, and long-term HRQoL for patients who require prolonged mechanical ventilation after cardiac surgery. However, the well-tolerated procedure was associated with less sedation, better comfort, and earlier resumption of autonomy.

Primary funding source: French Ministry of Health.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / adverse effects
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / methods*
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / mortality
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Pneumonia, Ventilator-Associated / etiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Respiration, Artificial / adverse effects
  • Respiration, Artificial / methods*
  • Respiration, Artificial / mortality
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Time Factors
  • Tracheotomy / adverse effects
  • Tracheotomy / methods*
  • Tracheotomy / mortality
  • Treatment Outcome

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00347321