Tracheostomy in Stroke Patients

  • Julian BöselEmail author
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Critical Care Neurology

Opinion statement

Patients with severe ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke may require tracheostomy in the course of their disease. This may apply to stroke unit patients whose deficits include a severe dysphagia posing such risk of aspiration as it cannot be sufficiently counteracted by tube feeding and swallowing therapy alone. More often, however, tracheostomy is performed in stroke patients so severely afflicted that they require intensive care unit treatment and mechanical ventilation. In these, long-term ventilation and prolonged insufficient airway protection are the main indications for tracheostomy. Accepted advantages are less pharyngeal and laryngeal lesions than with prolonged orotracheal intubation, better oral hygiene and nursing care, and higher patient comfort. Optimal timing of tracheostomy is unclear, in general, as in stroke intensive care unit patients. Potential benefits of early tracheostomy concerning ventilation duration and length of stay, respirator weaning, airway safety, rate of pneumonia, and other complications, outcome and mortality have been suggested in studies on non-neurologic subgroups of critical care patients. Stroke patients have hardly been investigated with regard to these aspects, and mainly retrospectively. A single randomized pilot trial on early tracheostomy in 60 ventilated patients with severe hemorrhagic and ischemic stroke demonstrated feasibility, safety, and less need of sedation. Regarding the technique, bedside percutaneous dilational tracheostomy should be preferred over surgical tracheostomy because of several reported advantages. As the procedural risk is low and early tracheostomy does not seem to worsen the clinical course of the ventilated stroke patient, it is reasonable to assess the need of further ventilation at the end of the first week of intensive care and proceed to tracheostomy if extubation is not feasible. Reliable prediction of prolonged ventilation need and outcome benefits of early tracheostomy, however, await further clarification. Decannulation of stroke patients after discontinued ventilation has to follow reliable confirmation of swallowing ability, as by endoscopy.


Stroke Acute ischemic stroke Intracerebral hemorrhage Subarachnoid hemorrhage Tracheostomy Tracheotomy Percutaneous dilational tracheostomy Intensive care Critical care Dysphagia Long-term ventilation Weaning Sedation Treatment 


Compliance with Ethics Guidelines

Conflict of Interest

Julian Bösel has received speaker honoraria and had travel/accommodations expenses covered/reimbursed by Covidien, Sedana, and Orion Pharma.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with animal subjects performed by the author. With regard to the author’s research cited in this paper, all procedures were followed in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000 and 2008.

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NeurologyUniversity of HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany

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