Successful decannulation of patients with traumatic spinal cord injury: A scoping review

J Spinal Cord Med. 2022 Jul;45(4):498-509. doi: 10.1080/10790268.2020.1832397. Epub 2020 Nov 9.


Context: Patients with spinal cord injury (SCI) often require tracheostomy as an immediate life-saving measure. Successful decannulation, or removal of the tracheostomy, improves patient quality of life, function, and physical appearance and is considered an important rehabilitative milestone for SCI patients.Objective: We sought to synthesize the existing published literature on SCI patients undergoing decannulation.Methods: Ovid MEDLINE, Embase, Web of Science, CINAHL, and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials were systematically searched through July 2, 2019 using appropriate keywords and MeSH terms pertaining to tracheostomy and SCI. Searches were human-subject only without language restrictions. Published literature discussing the outcomes of SCI patients who underwent decannulation were screened using inclusion/exclusion criteria determined a priori and reviewed.Results: Twenty-six publications were eligible for review and synthesis out of 1,493 unique articles. Over half of the studies were retrospective case series or reports. The research was nearly all published within the fields of physical medicine and rehabilitation, neurology, and pulmonary/critical care. Three themes emerged from review: (1) interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary tracheostomy team management to optimize decannulation processes, (2) non-invasive intermittent positive-pressure ventilatory support instead of tracheostomy-based ventilator support, and (3) wide variation in the reporting of post-decannulation clinical outcomes.Conclusion: Published research lacks a consistent taxonomy for reporting post-decannulation outcomes in SCI patients. Non-invasive ventilation research could benefit many SCI patients but has been studied in depth primarily by a single authorship group. Further investigation into the socioeconomic and fiscal impact on tracheostomies on SCI patients is warranted.

Keywords: Decannulation; Mechanical ventilation; Non-invasive ventilation; Spinal cord injury; Tracheostomy.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Catheterization*
  • Device Removal*
  • Humans
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord Injuries* / therapy
  • Tracheostomy