Tracheostomy During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Comparison of International Perioperative Care Protocols and Practices in 26 Countries

Carol Bier-Laning, John D. Cramer, Soham Roy, Patrick A. Palmieri, Ayman Amin, José Manuel Añon, Cesar A. Bonilla-Asalde, Patrick J. Bradley, Pankaj Chaturvedi, David M. Cognetti, Fernando Dias, Arianna Di Stadio, Johannes J. Fagan, David J. Feller-Kopman, Sheng Po Hao, Kwang Hyun Kim, Petri Koivunen, Woei Shyang Loh, Jobran Mansour, Matthew R. NaunheimMarcus J. Schultz, You Shang, Davud B. Sirjani, Maie A. St. John, Joshua K. Tay, Sébastien Vergez, Heather M. Weinreich, Eddy W.Y. Wong, Johannes Zenk, Christopher H. Rassekh, Michael J. Brenner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to a global surge in critically ill patients requiring invasive mechanical ventilation, some of whom may benefit from tracheostomy. Decisions on if, when, and how to perform tracheostomy in patients with COVID-19 have major implications for patients, clinicians, and hospitals. We investigated the tracheostomy protocols and practices that institutions around the world have put into place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Data Sources: Protocols for tracheostomy in patients with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection from individual institutions (n = 59) were obtained from the United States and 25 other countries, including data from several low- and middle-income countries, 23 published or society-endorsed protocols, and 36 institutional protocols. Review Methods: The comparative document analysis involved cross-sectional review of institutional protocols and practices. Data sources were analyzed for timing of tracheostomy, contraindications, preoperative testing, personal protective equipment (PPE), surgical technique, and postoperative management. Conclusions: Timing of tracheostomy varied from 3 to >21 days, with over 90% of protocols recommending 14 days of intubation prior to tracheostomy. Most protocols advocate delaying tracheostomy until COVID-19 testing was negative. All protocols involved use of N95 or higher PPE. Both open and percutaneous techniques were reported. Timing of tracheostomy changes ranged from 5 to >30 days postoperatively, sometimes contingent on negative COVID-19 test results. Implications for Practice: Wide variation exists in tracheostomy protocols, reflecting geographical variation, different resource constraints, and limited data to drive evidence-based care standards. Findings presented herein may provide reference points and a framework for evolving care standards.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1136-1147
Number of pages12
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (United States)
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • AGP
  • COVID-19
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • aerosol generating procedure
  • ethics
  • health care workers
  • infectivity
  • intensive care
  • intensive care unit
  • novel coronavirus
  • pandemic
  • patient safety
  • quality improvement
  • timing
  • tracheostomy
  • tracheotomy
  • ventilator
  • weaning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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