Background: Tracheostomy tube malposition is a barrier to weaning from mechanical ventilation. We determined the incidence of tracheostomy tube malposition, identified the associated risk factors, and examined the effect of malposition on clinical outcomes.
Methods: We performed a retrospective study on 403 consecutive patients with a tracheostomy who had been admitted to an acute care unit specializing in weaning from mechanical ventilation between July 1, 2002, and December 31, 2005. Bronchoscopy reports were reviewed for evidence of tracheostomy tube malposition (ie, > 50% occlusion of lumen by tissue). The main outcome parameters were the incidence of tracheostomy tube malposition; demographic, clinical, and tracheostomy-related factors associated with malposition; clinical response to correct the malposition; the duration of mechanical ventilation; the length of hospital stay; and mortality.
Results: Malpositioned tracheostomy tubes were identified in 40 of 403 patients (10%). The subspecialty of the surgical service physicians who performed the tracheostomy was most strongly associated with malposition. Thoracic and general surgeons were equally likely to have their patients associated with a malpositioned tracheostomy tube, while other subspecialty surgeons were more likely (odds ratio, 6.42; 95% confidence interval, 1.82 to 22.68; p = 0.004). Malpositioned tracheostomy tubes were changed in 80% of cases. Malposition was associated with prolonged mechanical ventilation posttracheostomy (median duration, 25 vs 15 d; p = 0.009), but not with increased hospital length of stay or mortality.
Conclusion: Tracheostomy tube malposition appears to be a common and important complication in patients who are being weaned from mechanical ventilation. Surgical expertise may be an important factor that impacts this complication.