OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to report the safety, efficacy, and early results of tracheostomy in patients with COVID-19 and determine whether differences exist between percutaneous and open methods. SUMMARY BACKGROUND DATA: Prolonged respiratory failure is common in symptomatic patients with COVID-19, the disease process caused by infection with the novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Tracheostomy, although posing potential risk to the operative team and other healthcare workers, may be beneficial for safe weaning of sedation and ventilator support. However, short- and long-term outcomes remain largely unknown. METHODS: A prospectively collected database of patients with COVID-19 undergoing tracheostomy at a major medical center in New York City between April 4 and April 30, 2020 was reviewed. The primary endpoint was need for continued mechanical ventilation. Secondary outcomes included complication rates, sedation weaning, and need for intensive care unit (ICU) level of care. Patient characteristics, perioperative conditions, and outcomes between percutaneous and open groups were analyzed. RESULTS: During the study period, 67 consecutive patients underwent tracheostomy, including 48 males and 19 females with a median age of 66 years [interquartile range (IQR) 52-72]. Two surgeons alternated techniques, with 35 tracheostomies performed percutaneously and 32 via an open approach. The median time from intubation to tracheostomy was 23 days (IQR 20-26). At a median follow-up of 26 days, 52 patients (78%) no longer required mechanical ventilation and 58 patients (87%) were off continuous sedation. Five patients (7.5%) died of systemic causes. There were 11 total complications (16%) in 10 patients, most of which involved minor bleeding. There were no significant differences in outcomes between percutaneous and open methods. CONCLUSIONS: Tracheostomy under apneic conditions by either percutaneous or open technique can be safely performed in patients with respiratory failure due to COVID-19. Tracheostomy facilitated weaning from continuous intravenous sedation and mechanical ventilation. Continued follow-up of these patients to ascertain long-term outcome data is ongoing.
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