Various complications may arise from prolonged mechanical ventilation, but the risk of tracheal stenosis occurring late after translaryngeal intubation or tracheostomy is less common. This study aimed to determine the prevalence, type, risk factors, and management of tracheal stenoses in mechanically ventilated tracheotomized patients deemed ready for decannulation following prolonged weaning.
A retrospective observational study on 357 prolonged mechanically ventilated, tracheotomized patients admitted to a specialized weaning center over seven years. Flexible bronchoscopy was used to discern the type, level, and severity of tracheal stenosis in each case. We described the management of these stenoses and used a binary logistic regression analysis to determine independent risk factors for stenosis development.
On admission, 272 patients (76%) had percutaneous tracheostomies, and 114 patients (32%) presented mild to moderate tracheal stenosis following weaning completion, with a median tracheal cross-section reduction of 40% (IQR 25–50). The majority of stenoses (88%) were located in the upper tracheal region, most commonly resulting from localized granulation tissue formation at the site of the internal stoma (96%). The logistic regression analysis determined that obesity (OR 2.16 [95%CI 1.29–3.63], P < 0.01), presence of a percutaneous tracheostomy (2.02 [1.12–3.66], P = 0.020), and cricothyrotomy status (5.35 [1.96–14.6], P < 0.01) were independently related to stenoses. Interventional bronchoscopy with Nd:YAG photocoagulation was a highly effective first-line treatment, with only three patients (2.6%) ultimately referred to tracheal surgery.
Tracheal stenosis is commonly observed among prolonged ventilated patients with tracheostomies, characterized by localized hypergranulation and mild to moderate airway obstruction, with interventional bronchoscopy providing satisfactory results.