Decannulation and assessment of deglutition in the tracheostomized patient in non-neurocritical intensive care

Alvo A, Olavarría C.

Acta Otorrinolaringol Esp. 2013 Mar


With intensive care patients, decannulation and deglutition disorders are frequent reasons for otorhinolaryngological assessment. The objective of a tracheostomy is to maintain a patent airway. It does not necessarily prevent episodes of aspiration and may even favour them. When the cause that led to the tracheostomy resolves, a decannulation may be proposed. Deglutition is a complex act involving the coordinated interaction of several structures of the aerodigestive tract. Fibre-optic endoscopy and videofluoroscopy are 2 useful, complementary tools for the evaluation of patients with swallowing disorders. In managing these patients, a thorough knowledge of laryngeal and swallowing physiology, as well as of the different therapeutic alternatives, is required. Although it is not uncommon for swallowing disorders to coexist in tracheostomy patients, decannulation evaluation is not synonymous with deglutition assessment. A patient could be a candidate for decannulation and have a swallowing disorder, or a tracheostomy patient could swallow adequately. Knowing and understanding these concepts will lead to more efficient management and help to clarify communication between the intensive care physician and the otorhinolaryngologist. Ideally, a multidisciplinary team should be formed to evaluate and manage these patients.


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