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Clin Chest Med. 2003 Sep;24(3):389-98.

Tracheotomy application and timing.

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Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, 812 CSB, Medical University of South Carolina, 96 Jonathan Lucas Street, Post Office Box 250623, Charleston, SC 29425, USA.


Tracheotomy is one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures among critically ill patients. In the past, tracheotomy was delayed as long as possible in ventilator-dependent patients because of concerns regarding injury to the airway from the surgical procedure. Greater recognition of the benefits of tracheotomy in terms of greater patient comfort and mobility has promoted its earlier performance. No data identify an ideal time for tracheotomy. The decision to convert a patient from translaryngeal intubation to a tracheostomy requires anticipation of the duration of expected mechanical ventilation and the weighing of the expected benefits and risks of the procedure. The convenience of percutaneous tracheotomy performed in the ICU by critical care specialists without formal surgical training has further promoted the adoption of tracheotomy for ventilator-dependent patients. Regardless of the method for performing tracheotomy, meticulous surgical technique and careful postoperative management are necessary to maintain the excellent safety record of tracheotomy for critically ill patients.

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