Safety of bedside surgical tracheostomy during COVID-19 pandemic: A retrospective observational study

PLoS One. 2020 Sep 30;15(9):e0240014. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0240014. eCollection 2020.


Data regarding safety of bedside surgical tracheostomy in novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) mechanically ventilated patients admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) are lacking. We performed this study to assess the safety of bedside surgical tracheostomy in COVID-19 patients admitted to ICU. This retrospective, single-center, cohort observational study (conducted between February, 23 and April, 30, 2020) was performed in our 45-bed dedicated COVID-19 ICU. Inclusion criteria were: a) age over 18 years; b) confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 infection (with nasopharyngeal/oropharyngeal swab); c) invasive mechanical ventilation and d) clinical indication for tracheostomy. The objectives of this study were to describe: 1) perioperative complications, 2) perioperative alterations in respiratory gas exchange and 3) occurrence of COVID-19 infection among health-care providers involved into the procedure. A total of 125 COVID-19 patients were admitted to the ICU during the study period. Of those, 66 (53%) underwent tracheostomy. Tracheostomy was performed after a mean of 6.1 (± 2.1) days since ICU admission. Most of tracheostomies (47/66, 71%) were performed by intensivists and the mean time of the procedure was 22 (± 4.4) minutes. No intraprocedural complications was reported. Stoma infection and bleeding were reported in 2 patients and 7 patients, respectively, in the post-procedure period, without significant clinical consequences. The mean PaO2 / FiO2 was significantly lower at the end of tracheostomy (117.6 ± 35.4) then at the beginning (133.4 ± 39.2) or 24 hours before (135.8 ± 51.3) the procedure. However, PaO2/FiO2 progressively increased at 24 hours after tracheostomy (142 ± 50.7). None of the members involved in the tracheotomy procedures developed COVID-19 infection. Bedside surgical tracheostomy appears to be feasible and safe, both for patients and for health care workers, during COVID-19 pandemic in an experienced center.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Betacoronavirus
  • Coronavirus Infections / prevention & control*
  • Coronavirus Infections / transmission
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Patient-to-Professional / prevention & control
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics / prevention & control*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / prevention & control*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / transmission
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Safety*
  • Tracheostomy*

Supplementary concepts

  • COVID-19
  • severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.