Background: Whether early percutaneous tracheotomy in patients who require prolonged mechanical ventilation can shorten mechanical ventilation duration and lower mortality remains controversial.
Objective: To compare the outcomes of severely ill patients who require prolonged mechanical ventilation randomly assigned to early percutaneous tracheotomy or prolonged intubation.
Design: Prospective, randomized, controlled, single-center trial (ClinicalTrials.gov registration number: NCT00347321).
Setting: Academic center.
Patients: 216 adults requiring mechanical ventilation 4 or more days after cardiac surgery.
Intervention: Immediate early percutaneous tracheotomy or prolonged intubation with tracheotomy 15 days after randomization.
Measurements: The primary end point was the number of ventilator-free days during the first 60 days after randomization. Secondary outcomes included 28-, 60-, or 90-day mortality rates; durations of mechanical ventilation, intensive care unit stay, and hospitalization; sedative, analgesic, and neuroleptic use; ventilator-associated pneumonia rate; unscheduled extubations; comfort and ease of care; and long-term health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and psychosocial evaluations.
Results: There was no difference in ventilator-free days during the first 60 days after randomization between early percutaneous tracheotomy and prolonged intubation groups (mean, 30.4 days [SD, 22.4] vs. 28.3 days [SD, 23.7], respectively; absolute difference, 2.1 days [95% CI, −4.1 to 8.3 days]) nor in 28-, 60-, or 90-day mortality rates (16% vs. 21%, 26% vs. 28%, and 30% vs. 30%, respectively). The durations of mechanical ventilation and hospitalization, as well as frequencies of ventilator-associated pneumonia and other severe infections, were also similar. However, early percutaneous tracheotomy was associated with less intravenous sedation; less time of heavy sedation; less haloperidol use for agitation, delirium, or both; fewer unscheduled extubations; better comfort and ease of care; and earlier resumption of oral nutrition. After a median follow-up of 873 days, between-group survival, psychosocial evaluations, and HRQoL were similar.
Limitation: The prolonged intubation group had more ventilator-free days during days 1 to 60 than what was hypothesized (mean, 23.0 days [SD, 17.0]).
Conclusion: Early tracheotomy provided no benefit in terms of mechanical ventilation and length of hospital stay, rates of mortality or infectious complications, and long-term HRQoL for patients who require prolonged mechanical ventilation after cardiac surgery. However, the well-tolerated procedure was associated with less sedation, better comfort, and earlier resumption of autonomy.
Primary Funding Source: French Ministry of Health.