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Type: Journal article
Title: Potentially lethal complications of tracheostomy: autopsy considerations
Author: Byard, R.
Gilbert, J.
Citation: American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 2011; 32(4):352-354
Publisher: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
Issue Date: 2011
ISSN: 0195-7910
Statement of
Roger W. Byard and John D. Gilbert
Abstract: Tracheostomy is widely used to facilitate respiration by protecting the airways. It may be performed to relieve upper airway obstruction from congenital stenoses or from acquired conditions such as foreign body impaction, swelling from neck trauma or anaphylaxis, benign or malignant tumors, and infection. Tracheostomy may also be performed in individuals with respiratory impairment who require suctioning for accumulated mucoid secretions and in those with obstructive sleep apnea. Review of autopsy files and the literature was undertaken to demonstrate the range of lethal circumstances that may involve tracheostomy. Unexpected death may result from incorrect positioning of an endotracheal tube with failure of oxygenation, tracheal perforation with pneumothorax, mucus plugging, accidental extubation, and hemorrhage from tracheovascular fistulas. Lethal tracheovascular fistulas usually involve the innominate artery and result from mural perforation by the tip of a tracheostomy tube, mural necrosis from a high-pressure cuff, prolonged intubation, radiotherapy, and low tracheal incisions. Increased movement of tubes in patients with impaired consciousness and excessive head movements may also increase the chances of hemorrhage, as may infiltrating tumors. Given the wide range of potential fatal mechanisms that may be found in such cases, careful autopsy evaluation and dissection will be required to demonstrate the exact nature and site of the lethal lesion in individuals who underwent tracheostomy and die unexpectedly.
Keywords: tracheostomy
Rights: © 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
DOI: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e31822abf4e
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Appears in Collections:Aurora harvest 5
Pathology publications

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