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Nurs Crit Care. 2010 Mar-Apr;15(2):76-85. doi: 10.1111/j.1478-5153.2010.00386.x.

Tracheostomy care and management in general wards and community settings: literature review.

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School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Dundee, 11 Airlie Place, Dundee. DD1 4HJ.



To identify current perspectives and areas for research regarding care and management of tracheostomized adult patients discharged to general wards and the community.


The increased number of tracheostomies being performed has led to more tracheostomized patients being discharged to non-specialized areas. Staff within these diverse areas may care for this patient group on an infrequent basis, and may lack the skills, knowledge and confidence to provide safe tracheostomy care. Although several guidelines and quality improvement initiatives have been developed to guide and improve tracheostomy care, concerns continue to be raised regarding this aspect of care. These factors inadvertently create significant risks for example, tube displacement in addition to the risks associated with procedures such as tracheal suctioning.


Database searches of MEDLINE, BRITISH NURSING INDEX and CINAHL (1998-2009). Inclusion criteria was literature regarding tracheostomized adult patients discharged to non-specialized areas. Exclusion criteria was paediatric literature.


Although best practice is applied to the care of tracheostomized adult patients in some areas, including support for ward staff from specialist nurses or teams, this is not always formalized or consistent. Furthermore studies indicate a lack of medical follow-up once the patient is discharged from specialized areas with a tracheostomy. Research is very limited in relation to the care and management of tracheostomized adult patients outside specialized areas, yet there is morbidity and mortality associated with this patient group. Staff education is widely recommended, but further development is needed to determine the best methods of delivering education, especially for health care professionals who care for tracheostomized patients on an infrequent basis.


More tracheostomized patients are being discharged to non-specialized areas, and issues have been raised regarding risks to patients. Research is required to determine the best methods of promoting best practice to improve tracheostomy care.

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