BACKGROUND: The efficacy of routinely obtaining chest radiographs after standard open tracheotomy has been questioned. Recent literature would suggest that after a routine, uncomplicated tracheotomy, chest radiography is a low-yield procedure that incurs unnecessary expense. Percutaneous dilatational tracheotomy (PDT) is rapidly replacing open tracheotomy as the intensive care unit procedure of choice for airway management. Complication rates are equivalent between the two procedures. OBJECTIVE: We examined the value and cost-effectiveness of routine postoperative chest radiographs in patients undergoing PDT. STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING: The study was a prospective analysis of 54 consecutive PDTs performed at a tertiary care academic institution. RESULTS: Eighteen (33%) patients had chest radiographs obtained within 1 hour of PDT (6 at the request of the otolaryngology service); 35 (66%) underwent radiography more than 2 hours later at the request of the intensive care unit for reasons other than PDT. There were no incidents of pneumothorax, pneumomediastinum, or tracheotomy tube malposition in any patient. Patients undergoing chest radiography within 1 hour of the PDT also had chest radiographs within 12 hours at the request of ICU staff for their underlying disease. CONCLUSIONS: Routine chest radiography after PDT is of low yield. Because most of these patients require chest radiographs for their underlying disease within 12 hours, a cost savings of approximately $13,500 would be realized in this patient population. SIGNIFICANCE: Routine chest radiography after PDT is unwarranted in most cases.
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