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J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2012 Oct;73(4):880-4. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e318251fb34.

Predicting the need for tracheostomy in patients with cervical spinal cord injury.

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Division of Orthopaedics, Department of Surgery, Schulich School of Medicine, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada.



Approximately 75% of hospitalized patients with a cervical spinal cord injury (CSCI) will require intubation and mechanical ventilation (MV) because of compromised respiratory function. It is difficult to predict those CSCI patients who will require prolonged ventilation and therefore will most benefit from early tracheostomy. This study intended to show the benefits of tracheostomy, particularly early, and to identify predictors of prolonged MV after CSCI.


A retrospective review of patients aged 16 years and older with acute CSCI admitted to London Health Science Center from 1991 to 2010 was performed. Demographic data and clinical parameters were extracted from medical records and the trauma registry. Regression analysis was used to identify predictors of prolonged MV.


There were 66 eligible patients of which 42 (62%) had a tracheostomy performed. Five patients (7.6%) remained ventilator dependent and seven (10.6%) died more than 7 days after injury secondary to sepsis. After adjusting for the number of ventilator days after injury, patients who had a tracheostomy had fewer pulmonary complications than those who did not have a tracheostomy (p = 0.001). Early tracheostomy resulted in fewer days on the ventilator and a shorter hospital stay. Clinical parameters that predicted MV to be required longer than 7 days were Injury Severity Score > 32, complete SCI, and a PAO2/FIO2 ratio < 300 3 days after MV was initiated.


We recommend early tracheostomy if the Injury Severity Score is >32, the patient has a complete SCI, and the PAO2/FIO2 ratio is <300 3 days after MV was initiated.


Prognostic study, level III.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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