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Original Investigation
August 2016

Tracheotomy Outcomes in Super Obese Patients

Author Affiliations
  • 1School of Medicine, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson
  • 2Department of Otolaryngology and Communicative Sciences, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson
  • 3Department of Family Medicine, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2016;142(8):772-776. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2016.1089

Importance  Surgeons need to understand the expected outcomes for super obese patients undergoing tracheotomy to appropriately counsel patients and families about likely risks and benefits.

Objective  To determine the outcomes, complications, and mortality after tracheotomy in super obese patients (those with a body mass index [BMI] greater than 50).

Design, Setting, and Participants  A retrospective review was conducted of billing records from a tertiary care academic medical center from November 1, 2010, through June 30, 2013, to identify patients undergoing tracheotomy. Medical records were reviewed to identify patients with a BMI (calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared) greater than 50 and a control group with a BMI of 30 to 50. Patient characteristics, including BMI, age, race/ethnicity, primary diagnosis for hospitalization, medical comorbidities, and surgical technique, were measured.

Main Outcomes and Measures  The primary outcome measure was dependence on tracheostomy at discharge. Secondary outcomes included rates of ventilator dependence, mortality, postoperative complications, and discharge disposition.

Results  The super obese population included 31 patients and was predominantly African American (20 patients [65%]) and female (21 patients [68%]). Mean BMI of super obese patients was 64.0 (range, 50.2-95.5). The obese patient population was mainly African American (25 patients [74%]) and female (17 patients [50%]). Twenty-five of 31 super obese patients (81%) were discharged with a tracheotomy tube in place, compared with 16 of 34 obese patients (52%). Seven patients (23%) in the super obese group were ventilator dependent at discharge, compared with 4 patients (13%) in the obese group. Only 2 of the super obese patients (3%) were decannulated before discharge, compared with 15 (44%) in the obese group. In-hospital mortality was similar for the 2 groups (super obese, 4 patients [13%] and obese, 3 patients [9%]). The overall complication rate was 19% in the super obese group (6 patients) compared with 6% in the obese group (2 patients). Super obese patients were less likely to be discharged to a health care facility (17 patients [55%]) compared with patients in the obese group (22 patients [65%]).

Conclusions and Relevance  Tracheotomy in super obese patients is a safe and effective strategy for airway management. Critically ill, super obese patients have a high likelihood of remaining dependent on a tracheotomy or ventilator at the time of discharge.