The effects of tracheostomy cuff deflation during continuous positive airway pressure*

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Continuous flow positive pressure devices bridge the gap between mechanical and unsupported ventilation in patients recovering from critical illness. At this point, patients are often fully awake, yet the inflated tracheostomy cuff prevents them from speaking or swallowing. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of cuff deflation. After ethics committee approval and informed consent, we recorded airway pressures with catheters placed 3 cm beyond the distal tracheostomy tip, respiratory rate, heart rate and peripheral oxygen saturation with continuous positive airway pressures set at 5, 7.5 and 10 cmH2O with the cuff inflated and deflated. Sixteen patients completed the study. There were small falls in end expiratory pressure on cuff deflation. The median (interquartile range) pressure drop with set airway pressure of 5 cmH2O was 0.25 (0–1.4) mmHg, which increased to 1 (0–3) mmHg at 7.5 cmH2O and 1.5 (0–4) mmHg at 10 cmH2O. These changes were not clinically significant and cardiopulmonary parameters remained stable. All patients were able to vocalise following cuff deflation. Twelve patients passed a blue dye swallow screen within a day of tolerating cuff deflation. These results suggest that pressures fall slightly following cuff deflation but this is associated with respiratory stability and may allow patients to talk and swallow.

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