Fatal complications of percutaneous dilatational tracheostomy

Peter Gilbey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Objectives: Fatal complications of percutaneous dilatational tracheostomy (PDT) are rare and intraoperative fatal complications of PDT even more so. We present the unique case of a fatal nonvascular intraoperative complication of PDT, previously unreported in the medical literature. We also present a review of all previously reported fatal complications of PDT. Methods: A review of all previously reported fatal complications of PDT was conducted in order to examine the prevalent causes of death and to attempt to recommend measures designed to prevent similar fatal complications in the future. Results: Cases of death during or following PDT in which the technique is related to the cause of death have only been reported in a small number of cases. Almost all fatal complications of PDT result from vascular injury. Conclusions: Any vascular pulsation palpated over the tracheostomy site mandates preoperative ultrasound or conversion to open surgical tracheostomy. Patients with previous neck surgery, radiotherapy or unclear surgical anatomy should be regarded with caution. If a difficult intubation or a difficult procedure is anticipated, it may be preferable not to attempt PDT with a plan to convert to surgical tracheostomy if necessary but instead to perform surgical tracheostomy without attempting PDT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)770-773
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Medicine and Surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2012


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