Tracheotomy in COVID-19 patients: Optimizing patient selection and identifying prognostic indicators.
BACKGROUND: Tracheotomy, through its ability to wean patients off ventilation, can shorten ICU length of stay and in doing so increase ICU bed capacity, crucial for saving lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, there is a paucity of patient selection criteria and prognosticators to facilitate decision making and enhance precious ICU capacity. METHODS: Prospective study of COVID-19 patients undergoing tracheotomy (n = 12) over a 4-week period (March-April 2020). Association between preoperative and postoperative ventilation requirements and outcomes (ICU stay, time to decannulation, and death) were examined. RESULTS: Patients who sustained FiO2 ≤ 50% and PEEP ≤ 8 cm H2 O in the 24 hours pretracheotomy exhibited a favorable outcome. Those whose requirements remained below these thresholds post-tracheotomy could be safely stepped down after 48 hours. CONCLUSION: Sustained FiO2 ≤ 50% and PEEP ≤ 8 cm H2 O in the 48 hours post-tracheotomy are strong predictive factors for a good outcome, raising the potential for these patients to be stepped down early, thus increasing ICU capacity.