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Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1996 May;77(5):493-6.

Laryngotracheal stenosis after intubation or tracheostomy in patients with neurological disease.

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Service de Rééducation Fonctionnelle, Centre Hospitalier Régional Universitaire de Nantes, France.



This retrospective study evaluated the incidence of airway complications in neurological patients following translaryngeal intubation, tracheostomy, or both.


The medical records of 315 consecutive patients (200 with traumatic brain injuries, 31 traumatic tetraplegics, and 84 with other neurological disorders) were reviewed. The type of artificial airway, duration of intubation, and use of nocturnal ventilation were recorded. Eighty-six percent of the patients underwent some combination of tracheal tomograms, flow-volume loop analysis, and fiberoptic tracheolaryngoscopy. Stenosis was classified as severe if it required surgery, if it required maintaining the tracheostomy, or was lethal. It was classified as benign if it was successfully treated by medical or local means.


Fifty-five percent of the patients were intubated translaryngeally only (mean = 17 days). Three percent underwent tracheostomy only, and 42% underwent tracheostomy after intubation for a mean of 13 days. The overall incidence of airway stenosis was 20%, 1/4 of which was severe. Fifteen percent of these patients died as a result of tracheal complications. The incidence of stenosis was higher following tracheostomy than following intubation only (29% vs 13%, p < .01). The incidence of severe stenosis in intubated-only patients was low (1%) compared with that following tracheostomy (10%, p < .01). No significant relationship was found between the length of intubation or the timing of tracheostomy.


Fewer complications are associated with transtracheal intubation than with tracheostomy. The data suggest that longer periods of intubation be used when attempting ventilator weaning before restoring to tracheostomy if weaning fails.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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