Tracheostomy is a common critical care procedure in patients with acute respiratory failure who require prolonged mechanical ventilatory support. Tracheostomy usually is considered if weaning from mechanical ventilation has been unsuccessful for 14 to 21 days. A recent clinical trial suggested that early tracheostomy may benefit patients who are not improving and who are expected to require prolonged respiratory support. In this study, early tracheostomy improved survival and shortened duration of mechanical ventilation. Minimally invasive bedside percutaneous tracheostomy was introduced recently as an alternative to the traditional surgical technique. In expert hands, the 2 techniques are equivalent in complications and safety; however, the bedside percutaneous approach may be more cost-effective. Tracheostomy should be considered early (within the first week of mechanical ventilation) in patients with a high likelihood of prolonged mechanical ventilation. Depending on local medical expertise and costs, either the percutaneous or the surgical technique may be used.
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