Impact of neck length on the safety of percutaneous and surgical tracheotomy: A prospective, randomized study

Abtin Tabaee, Elvin Geng, Jerry Lin, Stylianos Kakoullis, Brian McDonald, Hector Rodriguez, David Chong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Objective: To investigate a correlation between neck length and the incidence of complications after both percutaneous and surgical tracheotomy (ST) and to compare the relative safety of the two procedures at our institution. Study Design: Prospective, randomized study of patients undergoing tracheotomy at a tertiary care center. Methods: Forty-three patients evaluated for tracheotomy at our institution between the years 2003 and 2004 were enrolled in the study and were randomly assigned to receive either an ST or a percutaneous dilatational tracheotomy (PDT). All patients underwent standardized measurement of the cricosternal distance (CSD) in the neutral and extended positions before the procedure. Demographic and procedural variables were recorded, and the occurrence of postoperative complications was followed for 1 week. Results: PDT was performed in 29 patients and ST in 14 patients. The mean CSD of 2.7 cm increased to 3.7 cm after extension with a shoulder roll. PDT required less time (mean 8 vs; 23 minutes) and resulted in less blood loss compared with ST. A trend toward a higher incidence of complications with PDT (40%) compared with ST (7%) and in the first half of our series (learning curve) was noted. This, however, did not reach statistical significance. There was no correlation between the incidence of complications and neck length as determined by the CSD in either group of patients. Conclusions: We failed to demonstrate a correlation between CSD and tracheotomy related complications. Patients with short necks may be at no higher risk during either a PDT or ST. Experience, awareness of complications, and a dedicated team approach are necessary for the safe performance of PDT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1685-1690
Number of pages6
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2005


  • Neck anatomy
  • Percutaneous dilatational tracheostomy
  • Surgical tracheostomy
  • Tracheotomy


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