Percutaneous tracheostomy: to bronch or not to bronch--that is the question

J Trauma. 2011 Dec;71(6):1553-6. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e31823ba29e.


Background: Percutaneous tracheostomy is a routine procedure in the intensive care unit (ICU). Some surgeons perform percutaneous tracheostomies using bronchoscopy believing that it increases safety. The purpose of this study was to evaluate percutaneous tracheostomy in the trauma population and to determine whether the use of a bronchoscope decreases the complication rate and improves safety.

Methods: A retrospective review was completed from January 2007 to November 2010. Inclusion criteria were trauma patients undergoing percutaneous tracheostomy. Data collected included age, Abbreviated Injury Score by region, Injury Severity Score, ventilator days, and outcomes. Complications were classified as early (occurring within <24 hours) or late (>24 hours after the procedure).

Results: During the study period, 9,663 trauma patients were admitted, with 1,587 undergoing intubation and admission to the ICU. Tracheostomies were performed in 266 patients and 243 of these were percutaneous; 78 (32%) were performed with the bronchoscope (Bronch) and 168 (68%) without bronchoscope (No Bronch). There were no differences between the groups in Abbreviated Injury Score by region, Injury Severity Score, probability of survival, ventilator days, and length of ICU or overall hospital stay. There were 16 complications, 5 (Bronch) and 11 (No Bronch). Early complications were primarily bleeding (Bronch 3% vs. No Bronch 4%, not statistically significant). Late complications included tracheomalacia, tracheal granulation tissue, bleeding, and stenosis; Bronch 4% versus No Bronch 3%, (not statistically significant). One major complication occurred, with loss of airway and cardiac arrest, in the bronchoscopy group.

Conclusion: Percutaneous tracheostomy was safely and effectively performed by an experienced surgical team both with and without bronchoscopic guidance with no difference in the complication rates. This study suggests that the use of bronchoscopic guidance during tracheostomy is not routinely required but may be used as an important adjunct in selected patients, such as those with HALO cervical fixation, obesity, or difficult anatomy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bronchoscopy / adverse effects
  • Bronchoscopy / methods*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Critical Care / methods
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minimally Invasive Surgical Procedures / adverse effects
  • Minimally Invasive Surgical Procedures / methods
  • Multiple Trauma / diagnosis
  • Multiple Trauma / surgery*
  • Postoperative Complications / physiopathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Tracheostomy / adverse effects
  • Tracheostomy / methods*
  • Trauma Centers
  • Treatment Outcome