Study objective: To examine the impact of the timing of tracheotomy on the duration of mechanical ventilation, the secondary changes to the trachea, and the clinical course of critically ill patients in the ICU.
Design: A systematic review of the literature.
Methods: Two independent reviewers conducted a MEDLINE search for relevant literature in the form of randomized or observational controlled clinical studies. Studies were selected for review by criteria determined a priori; and the methodologic quality of selected studies was evaluated by duplicate independent review, also using criteria determined a priori.
Results: Five studies were identified, of which three were quasirandomized and none were blinded. Agreement between reviewers of methodologic quality was high (kappa=0.87).
Conclusions: There is insufficient evidence to support that the timing of tracheotomy alters the duration of mechanical ventilation or extent of airway injury in critically ill patients.