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The surgical procedure of tracheotomy, involving an incision into the trachea of the airway, is now seen as a relatively straightforward procedure but is still associated with a risk of some complications. Recent studies have shown that approximately 10-15% of patients may experience complications to varying degrees of severity.
Some particular patient groups are more likely to experience complications following tracheotomy. This includes young children and infants, as well as people with certain health conditions such as diabetes and respiratory conditions, and people taking certain medications.
In most cases, tracheotomies that are planned have a higher success rate than those performed in an emergency.
All complications can be categorized as immediate, later and delayed, according to when they occur with respect to the surgical procedure.
Immediate complications may occur during or shortly following the surgical procedure. They may include:
Later complications occur after surgery while the tube of the tracheostomy is still in place. They may include:
Delayed complications may occur days, weeks or months after the surgical procedure and may include:
The surgical technique employed in the tracheotomy procedure is important in lessening the risk of complications. Until recently, the risk of complications associated with tracheotomy was high and resulted in high mortality.
Surgeons can reduce the risk by following the current standard guidelines recommended for tracheotomy. This includes making the incision as high in the trachea as possible and practicing adequate post-operative care. Regular examination of the tracheostomy tube and airway should be conducted by an otolaryngologist, which will help reduce the risk of these complications.