[Bilateral pneumothorax, cervicofacial and mediastinal emphysema after surgical tracheostomy].Ann Fr Anesth Reanim. 2013 Oct; 32(10):718-20.AF
Tracheotomy is a surgical procedure for various indications, such as ventilator dependence and airway obstruction. Reported rates in the literature of complications of tracheostomy vary widely. We report an unusual presentation of serious complication after surgical tracheostomy. The correct timing of tracheostomy is still controversial in the literature. A 74-year-old male had emergency surgical tracheostomy under general anesthesia. At the end of the procedure, in recovery room, he developed subcutaneous emphysema of the eyes. There was no pneumothorax seen on chest X-ray. Bronchoscopic examination through the tracheostomy tube showed no evidence of damage to the posterior tracheal wall. Three hours later patient had difficulty breathing requiring sedation with respiratory assistance. X-ray of the chest at this stage showed a right pneumothorax and extensive subcutaneous emphysema of the chest wall. Pneumothorax was managed using a chest tube. Two days after, a control CT scan of the chest showed a left pneumothorax and pneumomediastinum. The pneumothorax was managed using a chest tube. Bronchoscopic examination showed no obvious lesion in the tracheobronchial tree. The patient was treated successfully with supportive care and large doses of antibiotic to prevent mediastinitis. Seven days later, recovery was rapid and complete and CT scan of the chest was completely normal. The patient was discharged from the hospital on the 13th postoperative day. This case illustrates that complications occurring after surgical tracheostomy could be dramatic. Management of tracheotomy is important to prevent complications. There is still debate on optimal timing of tracheotomy. The last three trials have shown no interest to perform an early tracheotomy, neither in terms of vital prognosis nor in terms of the duration of mechanical ventilation.