To compare the outcomes and the short- and long-term complications of percutaneous translaryngeal tracheostomy (TLT) and surgical tracheostomy (ST).
Prospective, randomized clinical trial with 1-yr double-blind follow-up.
A general intensive care unit of a university hospital.
A total of 139 consecutive critically ill patients who required a tracheostomy between February 2001 and June 2002 were randomly assigned to receive either ST or TLT.
TLTs were performed more rapidly than STs (17 ± 10 mins vs. 22 ± 6 mins, p = .003). Early complications were rare in both groups. Major postoperative bleeding was less frequent with TLT (0 [0%] vs. 6 [8%], p = .03). Only one case of bleeding (in the ST group) required blood transfusion. Immediately after tracheostomy, six TLT patients (9%) and six patients (8%) in the ST group (p = .56) developed culture-confirmed bacteremia with microbes previously isolated from the pharynx or trachea. Group rates for stomal infections and pneumonia after tracheostomy were similar. At 1-yr follow-up, the overall survival rate was 27%, and 14 patients (45% of survivors) still had open tracheostomies. Both groups rated their quality of life as moderately to severely compromised, and the deterioration was strictly related to the presence of tracheostomy. One TLT and two ST survivors (p = .53) had clinical signs of tracheal stenosis, and bronchoscopy revealed narrowing of >50%.
Compared with ST, the main advantages of TLT are that it is more rapid and associated with less postoperative bleeding. Infectious complications, particularly postoperative bacteremia, and long-term effects (physical and emotional) are similar with the two procedures.