Time to tracheostomy impacts overall outcomes in patients with cervical spinal cord injury

Tanya Anand, Kamil Hanna, Narong Kulvatunyou, Muhammad Zeeshan, Michael DItillo, Lourdes Castanon, Andrew Tang, Lynn Gries, Bellal Joseph

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND The morbidity associated with cervical spine injury increases in the setting of concomitant cervical spinal cord injury (CSCI). A significant proportion of these patients require placement of a tracheostomy. However, it remains unclear if timing to tracheostomy following traumatic CSCI can impact outcomes. The aim of our study was to characterize outcomes associated with tracheostomy timing following traumatic CSCI. METHODS We performed a 5-year (2010-2014) analysis of the American College of Surgeons Trauma Quality Improvement Program database and included all adult (age, ≥18 years) trauma patients who had traumatic CSCI and received tracheostomy. Patients were subdivided into two groups: early tracheostomy (ET) (≤4 days from initial intubation) and late tracheostomy (LT) (>4 days). Outcome measures included respiratory complications, ventilator-free days, intensive care unit-free days and hospital length of stay, and mortality. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was performed. RESULTS A total of 5,980 patients were included in the study, of which 1,010 (17%) patients received ET, while 4,970 (83%) patients received LT. Mean age was 46 years, and 73% were men. In terms of CSCI location, 48% of the patients had high CSCI (C1-C4), while 52% had low CSCI (C5-C7). Patients in the ET group had lower rates of respiratory complications (30% vs. 46%, p = 0.01), higher ventilator-free days (13 days vs. 9 days; p = 0.02), intensive care unit-free days (11 days vs. 8 days; p = 0.01), and a shorter hospital length of stay (22 days vs. 29 days; p = 0.01) compared with those in the LT group. On regression analysis, ET was associated with lower rates of respiratory complications in patients with high CSCI (odds ratio, 0.55 [0.41-0.81]) and low CSCI (odds ratio, 0.93 [0.72-0.95]). However, no association was found between time to tracheostomy and in-hospital mortality. CONCLUSION Early tracheostomy regardless of CSCI level may lead to improved outcomes. Quality improvement efforts should focus on defining the optimal time to tracheostomy and considering ET as a component of SCI management bundle. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE Therapeutic, level IV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)358-364
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • Early tracheostomy
  • TQIP
  • cervical spinal cord injury
  • respiratory complications

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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