Tracheostomy decreases continuous analgesia and sedation requirements

Taylor E. Wallen, Nora C. Elson, Kathleen E. Singer, Hannah V. Hayes, Ann Salvator, Christopher A. Droege, Vanessa Nomellini, Timothy A. Pritts, Michael D. Goodman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND The goals of sedation in the critically ill surgical patient are to minimize pain, anxiety, and agitation without hindering cardiopulmonary function. One potential benefit of tracheostomy during endotracheal intubation is the reduction of sedation and analgesia; however, there are little data to support this supposition. We hypothesized that patients undergoing tracheostomy would have a rapid reduction in sedation and analgesia following tracheostomy. METHODS A retrospective review of tracheostomies performed at a single Level I trauma center from January 2013 to June 2018 was completed. An evaluation of Glasgow Coma Scale, Richmond Agitation-Sedation Scale, and Confusion Assessment Method for the intensive care unit 72 hours pretracheostomy to 72 hours posttracheostomy was performed. The total daily dose of sedation, anxiolytic, and analgesic medications administered were recorded. Mixed-effects models were used to evaluate longitudinal drug does over time (hours). RESULTS Four hundred sixty-eight patients included for analysis with a mean age of 58.8 ± 18.3 years. There was a significant decrease in propofol and fentanyl utilization from 24 hours pretracheostomy to 24 hours posttracheostomy in both dose and number of patients receiving these continuous intravenous medications. Similarly, total morphine milligram equivalents (MME) use and continuous midazolam significantly decreased from 24 hours pretracheostomy to 24 hours posttracheostomy. By contrast, intermittent enteral quetiapine and methadone administration increased after tracheostomy. Importantly, Richmond Agitation-Sedation Scale, Glasgow Coma Scale, and Confusion Assessment Method scoring were also significantly improved as early as 24 hours posttracheostomy. Total MME use was significantly elevated in patients younger than 65 years and in male patients pretracheostomy compared with female patients. Patients admitted to the medical intensive care unit had significantly higher MME use compared with those in the surgical intensive care unit pretracheostomy. CONCLUSION Tracheostomy allows for a rapid and significant reduction in intravenous sedation and analgesia medication utilization. Posttracheostomy sedation can transition to intermittent enteral medications, potentially contributing to the observed improvements in postoperative mental status and agitation. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE Therapeutic/Care Management; Level III.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)545-551
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • analgesia
  • fentanyl
  • pain
  • propofol
  • Tracheostomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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