Pilot Study Comparing Closed Versus Open Tracheal Suctioning in Postoperative Neonates and Infants With Complex Congenital Heart Disease

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To determine the hemodynamic effect of tracheal suction method in the first 36 hours after high-risk infant heart surgery on the PICU and to compare open and closed suctioning techniques.


Pilot randomized crossover study.


Single PICU in United Kingdom.


Infants undergoing surgical palliation with Norwood Sano, modified Blalock-Taussig shunt, or pulmonary artery banding in the first 36 hours postoperatively.


Infants were randomized to receive open or closed (in-line) tracheal suctioning either for their first or second study tracheal suction in the first 36 hours postoperatively.

Measurements and Main Results:

Twenty-four infants were enrolled over 18 months, 11 after modified Blalock-Taussig shunt, seven after Norwood Sano, and six after pulmonary artery banding. Thirteen patients received the open suction method first followed by the closed suction method second, and 11 patients received the closed suction method first followed by the open suction method second in the first 36 hours after their surgery. There were statistically significant larger changes in heart rate (p = 0.002), systolic blood pressure (p = 0.022), diastolic blood pressure (p = 0.009), mean blood pressure (p = 0.007), and arterial saturation (p = 0.040) using the open suction method, compared with closed suctioning, although none were clinically significant (defined as requiring any intervention).


There were no clinically significant differences between closed and open tracheal suction methods; however, there were statistically significant greater changes in some hemodynamic variables with open tracheal suctioning, suggesting that closed technique may be safer in children with more precarious physiology.

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