Incidence of Persistent Tracheocutaneous Fistula After Pediatric Tracheostomy Decannulation

Laryngoscope. 2022 May 12. doi: 10.1002/lary.30163. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Objectives: To determine the incidence of tracheocutaneous fistula (TCF) and identify characteristics associated with persistence.

Study design: Prospective cohort.

Methods: All successfully decannulated children (<18 years) between 2014 and 2020 at a tertiary children's hospital were included. Revision tracheostomies, concomitant major neck surgery, or single-stage laryngotracheal reconstructions were excluded. A persistent TCF was defined as a patent fistula at 6 weeks after decannulation.

Results: A total of 77 children met inclusion criteria with a persistent TCF incidence of 65% (50/77). Children with a persistent TCF were younger at placement (1.4 years (SD: 3.3) vs. 8.5 years (SD: 6.5), p < 0.001) and tracheostomy-dependent longer (2.8 years (SD: 1.3) vs. 0.9 years (SD: 0.7), p < 0.001). On univariate analysis, placement under 12 months of age (86% vs. 26% p < 0.001), duration of tracheostomy more than 2 years (76% vs. 11% p < 0.001), short gestation (64% vs. 26%, p = 0.002), congenital malformations (64% vs. 33%, p = 0.02), newborn complications (58% vs. 26%, p = 0.009), maternal complications (40% vs. 11%, p = 0.009) and chronic respiratory failure (72% vs. 41%, p = 0.01) were associated with persistent TCF. Logistic regression analysis associated duration of tracheostomy (OR: 0.14, 95% CI: 0.05-0.35, p < 0.001) and congenital malformations (OR: 0.25, 95% CI: 0.06-0.99, p = 0.049) with failure to spontaneously close.

Conclusions: Two-thirds of children will develop a persistent TCF after tracheostomy decannulation. Persistent TCF is correlated with a longer duration of tracheostomy and congenital malformations. Anticipation of this event in higher-risk children is necessary when caring for pediatric tracheostomy patients.

Level of evidence: 3 Laryngoscope, 2022.

Keywords: pediatric tracheostomy; tracheocutaneous fistula; tracheostomy decannulation.