To define the indications for tracheotomy in patients requiring prolonged intubation (>1 week) in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).
Retrospective chart review and follow-up telephone survey.
A tertiary care center PICU.
Tracheotomy or extubation.
All patients older than 30 days in the PICU intubated for longer than 1 week between 1997 and 1999.
During the study, 63 total admissions required intubation for longer than 1 week. A tracheotomy was necessary in 14% of admissions (n = 9). The mean length of intubation before the tracheotomy was 424 hours, whereas the mean length of intubation without the need for tracheotomy was 386 hours. Length of intubation, age, and number of intubations did not increase the probability of having a tracheotomy. Of those requiring a tracheotomy, 2 had tracheomalacia, 1 had subglottic edema, 1 had plastic bronchitis, 1 had Down syndrome with apnea resulting in right heart failure, 3 required long-term ventilation after cardiopulmonary collapse, and 1 had mitochondrial cytopathy. Of these 9 children, 7 were successfully decannulated, 1 patient died of underlying disease, and 1 patient remained cannulated secondary to the mitochondrial cytopathy. Twenty families of the patients who did not undergo a tracheotomy were reached by telephone after discharge. Most of the families reported that their children were free of stridor and hoarseness after extubation.
Children tolerate prolonged intubation without laryngeal complications. The consideration for tracheotomy in the PICU setting must be highly individualized for each child.