Trick of the Trade: Tracheostomy leak temporization

Patients who are tracheostomy and ventilator dependent are at increased risk for complications the longer they remain in this condition. One common complication is tracheomalacia. Progressive tracheomalacia can lead to air leaks around the tracheostomy cannula balloon. Initially, this can be managed by placing a longer tracheostomy cannula deeper into the trachea, however, these are often unavailable in the emergency department [1]. A second line strategy is to temporarily over-inflate the balloon, however, with chronic overinflation, eventually both the trachea and the neck stoma become too large, leading to an inability to maintain appropriate positive pressure (PEEP) and tidal volume necessary to ventilate the patient [2].