From the Journals

High mortality rates trail tracheostomy patients



Long-term outcomes after tracheostomy are generally poor and health care costs are high, especially for older patients, findings of a large retrospective study suggest.

ICU monitor Andrei Malov/Thinkstock

Current outcome prediction tools to support decision making regarding tracheostomies are limited, wrote Anuj B. Mehta, MD, of National Jewish Health in Denver, and colleagues. “This study provides novel and in-depth insight into mortality and health care utilization following tracheostomy not previously described at the population-level.”

In a study published in Critical Care Medicine, the researchers reviewed data from 8,343 nonsurgical patients seen in California hospitals from 2012 to 2013 who received a tracheostomy for acute respiratory failure.

Overall, the 1-year mortality rate for patients who had tracheostomies (the primary outcome) was 46.5%, with in-hospital mortality of 18.9% and 30-day mortality of 22.1%. Pneumonia was the most common diagnosis for patients with respiratory failure (79%) and some had an additional diagnosis, such as severe sepsis (56%).

Patients aged 65 years and older had significantly higher mortality than those under 65 (54.7% vs. 36.5%). The average age of the patients was 65 years; approximately 46% were women and 48% were white. The median survival for adults aged 65 years and older was 175 days, compared with median survival of more than a year for younger patients.

Secondary outcomes included discharge destination, hospital readmission, and health care utilization. A majority (86%) of patients were discharged to a long-term care facility, while 11% were sent home and approximately 3% were discharged to other destinations.

Nearly two-thirds (60%) of patients were readmitted to the hospital within a year of tracheostomy, and readmission was more common among older adults, compared with younger (66% vs. 55%).

In addition, just over one-third of all patients (36%) spent more than 50% of their days alive in the hospital in short-term acute care, and this rate was significantly higher for patients aged 65 years and older, compared with those under 65 (43% vs. 29%). On average, the total hospital cost for patients who survived the first year after tracheostomy was $215,369, with no significant difference in average cost among age groups.

The study findings were limited by several factors including the use of data from a single state, possible misclassification of billing codes, and inability to measure quality of life, the researchers noted.

However, “our findings of high mortality, low median survival for older patients, high readmission rates, potentially burdensome cost, and informative outcome trajectories provide significant insight into long-term outcomes following tracheostomy,” they concluded.

Dr. Mehta and several colleagues reported receiving funding from the National Institutes of Health. The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose.

SOURCE: Mehta AB et al. Crit Care Med. 2019 Aug 8. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0000000000003959.

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