Factors Impacting Physician Recommendation for Tracheostomy Placement in Pediatric Prolonged Mechanical Ventilation: A Cross-Sectional Survey on Stated Practice

Colin Blair Meyer-Macaulay, James Dayre McNally, Katie O'Hearn, Sherri Lynne Katz, Bernard Thébaud, Jean-Philippe Vaccani, Nick Barrowman, Mary-Ann Harrison, Philippe Jouvet
Pediatric Critical Care Medicine 2019, 20 (9): e423-e431

OBJECTIVES: To characterize the stated practices of qualified Canadian physicians toward tracheostomy for pediatric prolonged mechanical ventilation and whether subspecialty and comorbid conditions impact attitudes toward tracheostomy.

DESIGN: Cross sectional web-based survey.

SUBJECTS: Pediatric intensivists, neonatologists, respirologists, and otolaryngology-head and neck surgeons practicing at 16 tertiary academic Canadian pediatric hospitals.

INTERVENTIONS: Respondents answered a survey based on three cases (Case 1: neonate with bronchopulmonary dysplasia; Cases 2 and 3: children 1 and 10 years old with pediatric acute respiratory distress syndrome, respectively) including a series of alterations in relevant clinical variables.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: We compared respondents' likelihood of recommending tracheostomy at 3 weeks of mechanical ventilation and evaluated the effects of various clinical changes on physician willingness to recommend tracheostomy and their impact on preferred timing (≤ 3 wk or > 3 wk of mechanical ventilation). Response rate was 165 of 396 (42%). Of those respondents who indicated they had the expertise, 47 of 121 (38.8%), 23 of 93 (24.7%), and 40 of 87 (46.0%) would recommend tracheostomy at less than or equal to 3 weeks of mechanical ventilation for cases 1, 2, and 3, respectively (p < 0.05 Case 2 vs 3). Upper airway obstruction was associated with increased willingness to recommend earlier tracheostomy. Life-limiting condition, severe neurologic injury, unrepaired congenital heart disease, multiple organ system failure, and noninvasive ventilation were associated with a decreased willingness to recommend tracheostomy.

CONCLUSION: This survey provides insight in to the stated practice patterns of Canadian physicians who care for children requiring prolonged mechanical ventilation. Physicians remain reluctant to recommend tracheostomy for children requiring prolonged mechanical ventilation due to lung disease alone at 3 weeks of mechanical ventilation. Prospective studies characterizing actual physician practice toward tracheostomy for pediatric prolonged mechanical ventilation and evaluating the impact of tracheostomy timing on clinically important outcomes are needed as the next step toward harmonizing care delivery for such patients.


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