The long-term evaluation of tracheostomy in the management of severe obstructive sleep apnea

Gentry W. Thatcher, Robert H Maisel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine the long-term success and morbidity of tracheostomies for patients with severe obstructive sleep apnea. Study Design: A retrospective study of patients who have undergone tracheostomy for documented obstructive sleep apnea at Hennepin County Medical Center since 1979. Methods: Retrospective chart review of all tracheostomy patients operated January 1, 1979, to June 30, 1999, were evaluated. Follow-up data from patient records, death certificates, and DMV. Results: Seventy-nine patients (70 men and 9 women; age range, 25-70 y; mean age, 47 y) received tracheostomies at a regional sleep disorder center. Respiratory distress index ranged from 45 to 146 (mean value, 81). Tracheostomy eliminated obstructive sleep apnea in all cases. Follow-up ranged from 3 months to 20 years (mean period, 8.3 y). In all, 16 patients had decannulation (range, 2 mo to 13 y): 5 of the patients chose continuous positive airway pressure, 3 grew intolerant of their tracheostomy, 3 had obstructive sleep apnea fully resolve after uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, 3 unknown diagnosis for decannulation, 2 had significant weight loss. Morbidity seen within the first year was primarily limited to granulation tissue, infection, and stoma revision. Fourteen deaths were identified. Average age at time of death was 62 years. Five deaths were cardiopulmonary related, four were from cancer, two were from postoperative complications of unrelated surgery, and one was from aspiration. Tracheostomy-related mortality included one postoperative myocardial infarction and one trachealinnominate fistula. Conclusion: Severe obstructive sleep apnea and its comorbid conditions are effectively treated in the long term with tracheostomy. Initial management of more frequent complication is well tolerated. Significant morbidity and mortality are low. Chances of obstructive sleep apnea resolution allowing decannulation remain poor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-204
Number of pages4
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2003


  • Apnea
  • Hypopnea
  • Respiratory distress index


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