Lung Isolation Techniques in Patients With Early-Stage or Long-Term Tracheostomy: A Case Series Report of 70 Cases and Recommendations

J Cardiothorac Vasc Anesth. 2019 Feb;33(2):433-439. doi: 10.1053/j.jvca.2018.05.033. Epub 2018 Jun 19.


Objectives: Lung isolation techniques are designed to facilitate surgical exposure in thoracic surgical patients and provide one-lung ventilation (OLV). Some patients have a tracheostomy in situ, which makes the management of the airway and OLV difficult. The objective of this retrospective study was to review cases that had a tracheostomy prior to thoracic surgery and evaluate the clinical use and efficiency with the airway management and lung isolation devices.

Design: This was a retrospective data analysis.

Setting: Tertiary care university hospital.

Interventions: After institutional review board approval, the authors reviewed 3,225 charts of patients who had thoracic surgery involving OLV. Seventy patients were identified who had tracheostomy in situ. Each case was reviewed regarding airway management and lung isolation technique.

Measurements and main results: The authors identified 70 patients who had a tracheostomy in situ. The cases were divided into 2 groups: a fresh tracheostomy stoma <7 days (n = 6) or long-term stoma >7 days (n = 64). The authors collected information regarding the devices used to manage the airway and lung isolation techniques. The devices used to manage the airway include the Shiley cuffed low pressure tracheostomy tube, single-lumen endotracheal tube (SLT), or double-lumen endotracheal tube (DLT). Devices used to manage OLV included SLTs, with or without bronchial blockers, or DLTs. Flexible fiberoptic bronchoscopy was used to assess the airway and confirm the position of the lung isolation device. Six cases had an early-stage fresh tracheostomy stoma where the Shiley tracheostomy tube was used for ventilation followed by the use of a bronchial blocker. In contrast, for the patients who had a long-term stoma, the following devices were used: (1) a SLT plus a bronchial blocker in 38 cases, a Shiley tracheostomy tube plus bronchial blocker in 15 cases, use of a SLT guided into a selective bronchus in 7 cases, and use of a DLT in 4 cases. In all cases, flexible fiberoptic bronchoscopy was used and no complications occurred secondary to airway management or OLV.

Conclusion: In patients undergoing thoracic surgery and OLV, and with a fresh tracheostomy stoma in situ, the authors recommend the use of the Shiley tracheostomy tube plus a bronchial blocker. In patients with a long-term tracheostomy stoma, a SLT can be used selectively to intubate 1 bronchus. In addition, an SLT or a Shiley tube can be used in conjunction with an independent bronchial blocker, such as the Arndt wire-guided bronchial blocker, Cohen tip-deflecting blocker, Fuji Uniblocker, or EZ-Blocker. DLTs are the least frequently used device for OLV in tracheostomized patients.

Keywords: bronchial blockers; difficult airway; double-lumen tubes; one-lung ventilation; shiley tracheostomy cannula; tracheostomy.

MeSH terms

  • Airway Management / methods*
  • Airway Obstruction / diagnosis
  • Airway Obstruction / therapy*
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • One-Lung Ventilation / methods*
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thoracic Surgical Procedures / methods*
  • Time Factors
  • Tracheostomy / methods*