Tracheostomy practice and timing in traumatic brain-injured patients: a CENTER-TBI study

Chiara Robba, Stefania Galimberti, Francesca Graziano, Eveline J.A. Wiegers, Hester Lingsma, Carolina Iaquaniello, Nino Stocchetti, David Menon, Giuseppe Citerio, the CENTER-TBI ICU Participants and Investigators

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Purpose: Indications and optimal timing for tracheostomy in traumatic brain-injured (TBI) patients are uncertain. This study aims to describe the patients’ characteristics, timing, and factors related to the decision to perform a tracheostomy and differences in strategies among different countries and assess the effect of the timing of tracheostomy on patients’ outcomes. Methods: We selected TBI patients from CENTER-TBI, a prospective observational longitudinal cohort study, with an intensive care unit stay ≥ 72 h. Tracheostomy was defined as early (≤ 7 days from admission) or late (> 7 days). We used a Cox regression model to identify critical factors that affected the timing of tracheostomy. The outcome was assessed at 6 months using the extended Glasgow Outcome Score. Results: Of the 1358 included patients, 433 (31.8%) had a tracheostomy. Age (hazard rate, HR = 1.04, 95% CI = 1.01–1.07, p = 0.003), Glasgow coma scale ≤ 8 (HR = 1.70, 95% CI = 1.22–2.36 at 7; p < 0.001), thoracic trauma (HR = 1.24, 95% CI = 1.01–1.52, p = 0.020), hypoxemia (HR = 1.37, 95% CI = 1.05–1.79, p = 0.048), unreactive pupil (HR = 1.76, 95% CI = 1.27–2.45 at 7; p < 0.001) were predictors for tracheostomy. Considerable heterogeneity among countries was found in tracheostomy frequency (7.9–50.2%) and timing (early 0–17.6%). Patients with a late tracheostomy were more likely to have a worse neurological outcome, i.e., mortality and poor neurological sequels (OR = 1.69, 95% CI = 1.07–2.67, p = 0.018), and longer length of stay (LOS) (38.5 vs. 49.4 days, p = 0.003). Conclusions: Tracheostomy after TBI is routinely performed in severe neurological damaged patients. Early tracheostomy is associated with a better neurological outcome and reduced LOS, but the causality of this relationship remains unproven.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)983–994
Number of pages12
JournalIntensive Care Medicine
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Outcome
  • Tracheostomy
  • Traumatic Brain Injury

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