Pediatric Tracheostomy Safety: Implementation of an Airway Safety Placard

Respir Care. 2023 Nov 25;68(12):1701-1707. doi: 10.4187/respcare.09634.


Background: First health care professionals arriving at the bedside in tracheostomy-related emergencies are rarely the surgical subspecialists who placed the tracheostomy and are unfamiliar with the relevant anatomy and tracheostomy specifications for the individual patient. We hypothesized that implementing a bedside airway safety placard would increase caregiver confidence, understanding of airway anatomy, and management of patients with a tracheostomy.

Methods: A prospective survey study was performed by distributing a tracheostomy airway safety survey before and after implementation of an airway safety placard in a 6-month study period. Placards emphasizing critical airway anomalies as well as emergency management algorithm suggestions designed by the otolaryngology team at the time of tracheostomy were placed at the head of the bed and traveled with the patient during transport around the hospital.

Results: Of 377 staff members requested to complete the surveys, 165 (43.8%) responses were obtained, and 31 (8.2% [95% CI 5.7-11.5]) paired pre- and post-implementation responses were recorded. Differences were found in the paired responses, including increases in the domains of confidence (P = .009) and experience (P = .01) post implementation. Less experienced providers (≤ 5 y of experience) (P = .005) and providers from neonatology (P = .049) demonstrated improved confidence post implementation, which was not observed in their more experienced (> 5 y) or respiratory therapy counterparts.

Conclusions: Given the limitations of a low survey response rate, our findings suggest that an educational airway safety placard initiative can be a simple, feasible, and low-cost quality improvement tool to enhance airway safety and possibly decrease potentially life-threating complications among pediatric patients with a tracheostomy. The implementation of the tracheostomy airway safety survey at our single institution warrants a larger multi-center study and validation of the survey.

Keywords: airway; confidence; experience; knowledge; prospective; survey; tracheostomy.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Health Personnel*
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tracheostomy* / adverse effects