To determine the effect of tracheotomy on polysomnographic and arterial blood gas data in patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
A retrospective study of all patients who underwent tracheotomy and were studied polysomnographically at the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center, Baltimore, Md, since 1981.
A regional sleep disorders center.
Twenty-eight patients (8 women and 20 men), aged 22 through 77 years. Patients were categorized into 2 groups on the basis of whether they had already undergone tracheotomy before polysomnography. Group 1 patients all had a polysomnographic diagnosis of OSA before tracheotomy. They were further subdivided on the basis of whether cardiopulmonary decompensation had been absent (group 1a, n=10) or present (group 1b, n=13). Group 2 patients (n=5) had undergone tracheotomy to treat upper airway obstruction that developed after non–apnea-related upper aerodigestive tract surgeries.
Main Outcome Measures
Nocturnal non–rapid eye movement, apnea-hypopnea index, percentage oxyhemoglobin saturation, and arterial blood gas data.
Patients with OSA underwent tracheotomy as definitive treatment for the apnea (n=15), to prevent postoperative upper airway compromise after uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (n=7), and to treat upper airway compromise after non–apnea-related upper aerodigestive tract surgeries (n=6). Tracheotomy alleviated apnea in all 10 patients with uncomplicated sleep apnea (group 1a). For patients with OSA complicated by cardiopulmonary decompensation (group 1b), tracheotomy improved but did not eliminate sleep apnea in 7 of the 13 patients, despite overall improvement in arterial blood gas values. For patients whose sleep apnea had not been diagnosed polysomnographically before tracheotomy (group 2), tracheotomy was still required to treat OSA that had previously not been recognized.
Tracheotomy effectively treated patients with uncomplicated OSA, but was much less effective in treating patients with OSA and cardiopulmonary decompensation. In patients who underwent tracheotomy in conjunction with other upper aerodigestive tract surgeries, concomitant obstructive sleep apnea often required continued use of a tracheotomy to maintain upper airway patency.