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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 39  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 102-104

Absence of capnography from tracheostomy: An indicator of tracheostomy tube dislodgement

1 Department of Anesthesiology, Tri-Service General Hospital and National Defense Medical Center, Taipei, Taiwan
2 Division of Thoracic Surgery, Armed Forces Taoyuan General Hospital, Taoyuan, Taiwan

Date of Submission28-Aug-2018
Date of Decision11-Sep-2018
Date of Acceptance29-Oct-2018
Date of Web Publication28-Mar-2019

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Yuan-Shiou Huang
Department of Anesthesiology, Tri-Service General Hospital and National Defense Medical Center, No. 325, Section 2, Chenggong Road, Neihu District 114, Taipei
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jmedsci.jmedsci_134_18

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Tracheostomy is a common artificial airway in the operative room (OR) or intensive care units for maintaining airway patency. Patients with tracheostomy are generally considered with a “secure” airway and would be preoxygenated before anesthesia induction. However, there are some pitfalls for an anesthesiologist when confronting with tracheostomy management. As a crucial component for ventilation, any management of tracheostomy should be conducted prudently. We report a case with tracheostomy presented to OR with loss of capnography but fair oxygen saturation which proved to be tube dislodgement by fiber-optic bronchoscopy timely without further desaturation.

Keywords: Tracheostomy, capnography, tube dislodgement

How to cite this article:
Lai MF, Wu ZF, Lin CY, Huang YS. Absence of capnography from tracheostomy: An indicator of tracheostomy tube dislodgement. J Med Sci 2019;39:102-4

How to cite this URL:
Lai MF, Wu ZF, Lin CY, Huang YS. Absence of capnography from tracheostomy: An indicator of tracheostomy tube dislodgement. J Med Sci [serial online] 2019 [cited 2023 Jun 9];39:102-4. Available from: https://www.jmedscindmc.com/text.asp?2019/39/2/102/246925

  Introduction Top

Tracheostomy is a procedure creating a surgical opening into the trachea which provides better and efficient ventilation. It is often performed for multiple indications including airway obstruction, loss of airway protection, or chronic respiratory failure requiring long-term ventilator support.[1],[2] Various postoperative complications of tracheostomy had been reported and could be divided into two categories: early and late postoperative phase. Hemorrhage, tube obstruction, dislodgement/decannulation, subcutaneous emphysema, and infection are included in the early postoperative phase. Complications in late phase included tracheal stenosis and fistula formation (tracheal-cutaneous or tracheal-esophagus fistula).[3] Complications are uncommon but some can be lethal.[3],[4] We describe a case with tracheostomy tube dislodgement during transportation to the operative room (OR) that was detected by absent waveform capnography before anesthesia induction.

  Case Report Top

A 61-year-old male, who suffered from gingiva cancer and underwent wide excision and tracheostomy 2 weeks ago, was scheduled for wound debridement. The tracheostomy tube was attached to ventilator for preoxygenation before anesthesia induction. However, capnography displayed absent waveform despite excluding mechanical errors. The patient presented with relatively small but steady tidal volume (150–200 ml) and pulse oximetry revealed fair oxygen saturation (96%–97%). His blood pressure was 138/70 mmHg, and the respiratory rate was 14–16 breaths/min. Bilateral breathing sounds were clear with chest wall partially expanded symmetrically. On airway examination, tracheostomy tube was protruded beyond the skin about 2 cm [Figure 1]. The cuff of the tracheostomy tube was deflated. There was no improvement in the tidal volume or pulse oximetry, and end-tidal carbon dioxide (EtCO2) was still absent when the cuff inflated. Partial obstruction, dislodgement, or decannulation of tracheostomy tube was impressed. To confirm our suspicion, the nasal EtCO2 sensor was substituted for tracheostomy site [Figure 2]a, and capnography showed steady waveform thereafter [Figure 2]b. A chest surgeon was consulted for the evaluation on possible malposition of tracheostomy. Fiber-optic bronchoscopy (FOB) revealed the tip of the tube lay within a false passage anterior to the trachea with partially attached to tracheostomy orifice [Figure 3]. The tracheostomy tube was dislodged during transportation to OR. EtCO2 was absent due to one-way valve formation at the tracheostomy tube orifice. Positive pressure was provided through hand-assisted ventilation which prevented the patient from desaturation due to partial inflow forced by positive pressure and partial flow through the upper airway. Negative pressure following released bag caused the flap of trachea ring to flip back and seal the tracheostomy tube orifice. The exhaled air traveled through sealed trachea upward and was detected by nasal EtCO2 detector [Figure 4].
Figure 1: Protruding tracheostomy tube from cutaneous surface

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Figure 2: (a) Nasal end-tidal carbon dioxide detector for evaluating the upper airway patency. (b) End-tidal carbon dioxide waveform appears when being placed nasally

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Figure 3: Dislodgement of tracheostomy tube with partially attached to the stoma. The cross indicates true orifice of trachea

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Figure 4: One-way valve formation at the tracheostomy tube orifice. (a) Air inflow (arrow) partially by positive pressure provided by ventilator and partial flow through the upper airway. (b) Expiratory negative pressure pushed the flap of trachea ring back and sealed the tracheostomy tube orifice. The exhaled air (arrow) traveled upward and was detected by nasal end-tidal carbon dioxide detector. TT = Tracheostomy tube; S = Subcutaneous tissue; T = Trachea; O = Orifice; F: Flap of trachea ring

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Tracheostomy reposition under bronchoscopy was conducted, and EtCO2 was observed. Induction of general anesthesia with intravenous propofol (Fresfol 1%) and maintenance with desflurane were performed subsequently.

  Discussion Top

Capnography is a continuous measurement that provides both graphic display and numeric value of CO2 throughout the respiratory cycle. Although there remain limitations including the challenges of interpretation in patients with mixed pathophysiology, false-positive or false-negative CO2 detection in certain clinical settings, and only available in specific critical care units, it is still widely used for real-time and noninvasive monitoring of CO2.[5]

Common reasons for absent EtCO2 levels and waveform include disconnection of the ventilator circuit, equipment failure, apnea, airway obstruction, and malposition of endotracheal/tracheostomy tube.[5] Thus, for a patient with tracheostomy scheduled for anesthesia, we suggest detecting capnography before induction was essential and vital because tube dislodgement is a fatal complication in the first few days after tracheotomy. The incidence of this complication has been reported to be 0%–7% and could be life-threatening.[3],[4],[6],[7],[8],[9]

When loss or disappearance of EtCO2 levels and waveform, dislodgement or disconnection of tracheostomy tube should always be considered even though patient presented with fair oxygen saturation. Obtain indication and exact date of tracheostomy to assess the upper airway and stoma patency first in case of subsequent emergencies requiring oral intubation. Meanwhile, look for any respiratory distress signs such as dyspnea, accessory breathing muscle use, and stridor with caution. Evaluate tracheotomy in appearance and complete physical examination thoroughly. The cuff is supposed to be deflated for minimizing airway resistance and enables upper airway ventilation. Reduction in tidal volume and increased ventilator airway pressure are also indicators for possible tube displacement. If the patient was stable with good oxygen saturation, exclude mechanical errors such as EtCO2 detector dysfunction or disconnection to the ventilator. Pass a suction catheter through tracheostomy tube to confirm its patency. If the suction catheter failed to pass through, dislodgement or decannulation, partial or total obstruction of tracheostomy tube should be considered. To differentiate possible tube dislodgement, anatomic abnormality, or tube obstruction, chest surgeon or otorhinolaryngologist consultation for FOB evaluation is necessary in this setting.[1] Once the tracheostomy tube is dislodged or decannulated, tube replacement under FOB is a rather safe management. Stoma ventilation with laryngeal mask if chest surgeon or otorhinolaryngologist was not available and the tracheostomy is partially obstructed. Once desaturation develops despite managements above, the choice of oral intubation or surgical airway should be based on the previous assessment of the anatomic structure of the upper airway.

  Conclusion Top

For a patient with tracheostomy, the absence of capnography from tracheostomy tube is an indicator of tube dislodgement. Tube dislodgement can be discovered in this setting and should be managed promptly for preventing further desaturation.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form the patient(s) has/have given his/her/their consent for his/her/their images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patients understand that their names and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal their identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Long B, Koyfman A. Resuscitating the tracheostomy patient in the ED. Am J Emerg Med 2016;34:1148-55.  Back to cited text no. 1
Morris LL, Whitmer A, McIntosh E. Tracheostomy care and complications in the Intensive Care Unit. Crit Care Nurse 2013;33:18-30.  Back to cited text no. 2
Goldenberg D, Ari EG, Golz A, Danino J, Netzer A, Joachims HZ, et al. Tracheotomy complications: A retrospective study of 1130 cases. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2000;123:495-500.  Back to cited text no. 3
Durbin CG Jr. Early complications of tracheostomy. Respir Care 2005;50:511-5.  Back to cited text no. 4
Long B, Koyfman A, Vivirito MA. Capnography in the emergency department: A review of uses, waveforms, and limitations. J Emerg Med 2017;53:829-42.  Back to cited text no. 5
Halum SL, Ting JY, Plowman EK, Belafsky PC, Harbarger CF, Postma GN, et al. Amulti-institutional analysis of tracheotomy complications. Laryngoscope 2012;122:38-45.  Back to cited text no. 6
Shah RK, Lander L, Berry JG, Nussenbaum B, Merati A, Roberson DW, et al. Tracheotomy outcomes and complications: A national perspective. Laryngoscope 2012;122:25-9.  Back to cited text no. 7
Spataro E, Durakovic N, Kallogjeri D, Nussenbaum B. Complications and 30-day hospital readmission rates of patients undergoing tracheostomy: A prospective analysis. Laryngoscope 2017;127:2746-53.  Back to cited text no. 8
Wetmore RF, Handler SD, Potsic WP. Pediatric tracheostomy. Experience during the past decade. Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol 1982;91:628-32.  Back to cited text no. 9


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4]


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