Tracheotomy in COVID-19 Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Weaning, Decannulation, and Survival

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2021 Sep;165(3):398-405. doi: 10.1177/0194599820984780. Epub 2021 Jan 5.


Objectives: A systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted to determine the cumulative incidences of decannulation and mechanical ventilation weaning in patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) who have undergone a tracheotomy. Weighted average mean times to tracheotomy, to decannulation, and to death were calculated from reported or approximated means.

Data sources: PubMed, SCOPUS, CINAHL, and the Cochrane library.

Review methods: Studies were screened by 3 investigators independently. Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) guidelines were followed. Studies including patients with COVID-19 who underwent a tracheotomy were identified. Studies without reported mechanical ventilation weaning or decannulation were excluded. Data were pooled using a random-effects model.

Results: After identifying 232 unique studies, 18 articles encompassing outcomes for 3234 patients were ultimately included for meta-analysis, with a weighted mean follow-up time of 28.6 ± 6.2 days after tracheotomy. Meta-analysis revealed that 55.0% of tracheotomized patients were weaned successfully from mechanical ventilation (95% CI, 47.4%-62.2%). Approximately 34.9% of patients were decannulated successfully, with a mean decannulation time of 18.6 ± 5.7 days after tracheotomy. The pooled mortality in tracheotomized patients with COVID-19 was 13.1%, with a mean time of death of 13.0 ± 4.0 days following tracheotomy.

Conclusion: At the current state of the coronavirus pandemic, over half of patients who have required tracheotomies are being weaned off of mechanical ventilation. While 13.1% patients have died prior to decannulation, over a third of all tracheotomized patients with COVID-19 reported in the literature have undergone successful decannulation.

Keywords: COVID; COVID-19; ICU; SARS-CoV-2; coronavirus; critical care; decannulation; otolaryngology; outcomes; tracheostomy; tracheotomy; ventilation.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / therapy
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / virology
  • Respiration, Artificial*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Tracheotomy*
  • Ventilator Weaning*