The COVID-19 outbreak poses continued struggles due to the unprecedented number of patients admitted to intensive care units and the overwhelming need for mechanical ventilation. We report a preliminary case series of 32 patients with COVID-19 who underwent elective tracheostomies after a mean intubation period of 15 days (range, 9-21 days). The procedure was performed with percutaneous (10 cases) and open (22 cases) surgical techniques. Neither procedure-related complications nor viral transmission to health care workers was observed. Our preliminary experience supports the safety of tracheostomy, provided that appropriate protocols are strictly followed. The postoperative care is still debated, and, prudentially, our protocol includes tracheal tube change not before 2 weeks after tracheostomy, with cuff deflation and decannulation deferred until confirmation of negative SARS-CoV-2 test results. This is the first case series to report on such a rapidly evolving issue and might represent a source of information for clinicians worldwide who will soon be facing the same challenges.
Keywords: COVID-19; coronavirus pandemic; intensive care unit; personal protective equipment; tracheostomy.