Podcast 788: Tracheostomy Bleeding - The Emergency Medical Minute

Podcast 788: Tracheostomy Bleeding

Contributor: Aaron Lessen, MD

Educational Pearls:

  • Tracheostomy bleeding is a rare but potentially life-threatening complication that usually occurs within the first month of tracheostomy tube placement
  • No matter how severe the bleeding, every patient should be evaluated to rule out a tracheo-innominate fistula between the tracheostomy and the innominate artery
  • If the patient is currently bleeding and has a cuffed tracheostomy tube, over-inflate the balloon to compress the bleeding vessel
  • Consider replacing an uncuffed tracheostomy tube with a cuffed tube or an ET tube
    • If the tracheostomy was performed in the last seven days, use a bougie or bronchoscope to replace the uncuffed tube due to increased risk of opening a false track into the subcutaneous tissue
  • If bleeding cannot be controlled, follow mass-transfusion protocols, and as a last resort, remove the tube and insert a finger into the stoma to manually compress the artery


Bontempo LJ, Manning SL. Tracheostomy Emergencies. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2019;37(1):109-119.

Khanafer A, Hellstern V, Meißner H, et al. Tracheoinnominate fistula: acute bleeding and hypovolemic shock due to a trachea-innominate artery fistula after long-term tracheostomy, treated with a stent-graft. CVIR Endovasc. 2021;4(1):30.

Manning Sara, Bontempo Laura. Complications of Tracheostomies. In: Mattu A and Swadron S, ed. ComPendium. Burbank, CA: CorePendium, LLC. https://www.emrap.org/corependium/chapter/reckOdDn9Ljn7sBLy/Complications-of-Tracheostomies. Updated August 17, 2021. Accessed June 5, 2022.


Summarized by Mark O’Brien, MS4 | Edited by John Spartz, MD, MPH & Erik Verzemnieks, MD


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