DOI: 10.1093/bjs/znad258.339 ISSN:

103 Outcomes and Complications of Simple Layered Closure of Persistent Tracheocutaneous Fistula After Tracheostomy in Childhood

T Wong, O Macpherson, S Docherty, J Gray, A Clement, H Kubba
  • Surgery



Up to half of all children with a tracheostomy develop persistent trachea-cutaneous fistula (TCF) after decannulation. Surgical closure of it is technically easy but post-operative complications can be immediate and life-threatening. We reviewed our experience in TCF closures to identify potential risk factors for complications.


Retrospective case records review of all children (0-16 years) who underwent surgical TCF closure between January 2010 and December 2021 following the development of a persistent TCF after decannulation of a tracheostomy.


67 children were identified. They ranged in age from 14 months to 16 years (median 3 years 10 months) at the time of the TCF closure. Major medical comorbidities were present in 90%. Pre-operative pulse oximetry with the fistula occluded was used in 29 children (43%). An underwater leak test was performed in 28 (42%). A non-suction drain was used in 29 children (43%). Prophylactic antibiotics were prescribed for 30 children (45%). Post-operative complications occurred in 15 children (22%): life-threatening air leak occurred in the immediate post-operative period in 2 children (3%) and respiratory distress in 3 children (4%) in the recovery area immediately after surgery. None required re-tracheostomy. Three children suffered post-operative pneumonia (4%), and wound infections occurred in 8 children (12%). We were unable to show a significant association between patient or surgical factors and complications.


Further analysis of the potential associations between patient factors, surgical factors, and complications is necessitated in guiding future practice.

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