Pediatric tracheotomy decannulation: a protocol for success

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Purpose of review

Pediatric tracheotomy is a common procedure. Given the risk of morbidity and mortality associated with long-term placement, it is imperative that decannulation is considered once the indication for tracheotomy placement is corrected or resolved. In this article, we discuss the critical steps necessary for the assessment of readiness for decannulation, and we review the recent literature that supports several methods of evaluation that may be incorporated into a protocol for decannulation.

Recent findings

Recent literature related to the topics of pediatric tracheotomy and decannulation is limited to case series and retrospective reviews, though relatively large patient populations are encompassed within individual studies. The data presented support the use of routine predecannulation endoscopic exam, as well as progressive daytime and overnight inpatient capping trials to ensure adequate airway patency, capped polysomnography for patients with underlying obstructive sleep apnea and/or dynamic airway disease, and 24-h inpatient observation after decannulation to determine tolerance and detect early failures requiring tracheotomy replacement.


Although the assessment of readiness for decannulation may be challenging, several evaluative steps are recommended to ensure safe and effective decannulation in pediatric patients. Apparent variation in decannulation outcomes by underlying cause may herald the development of indication-specific decannulation protocols in the future.

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