Exploring quality of life in critically ill tracheostomy patients: a pilot study.

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Tracheostomies are performed to improve health-related quality of life (QOL) in patients requiring prolonged mechanical ventilation. As the lengths of stay in intensive care units (ICU) increase and higher rates of tracheostomies are becoming more prevalent, issues regarding patient perceptions of their own prognoses and outcomes after tracheostomy can considerably impact QOL and in turn their care and recovery. Whether tracheostomy improves QOL, however, has not been studied adequately. Current studies investigating QOL have been limited to pre- and post-ICU admission, have relied on surrogate measures such as clinical outcomes and proxy reports, and have used inadequate instruments, failing to capture all domains of QOL. Studies using a robust instrument to investigate QOL in the ICU before and after tracheostomy are lacking. To explore the feasibility of assessing patient-reported QOL of mechanically ventilated ICU patients with a tracheostomy. A prospective longitudinal pilot study was conducted in awake and interactive patients who were mechanically ventilated in an ICU using a modified version of the University of Washington QOL Questionnaire. Data were collected at three measurement time points--Time 0 (T0), Time 1 (T1), and Time 2 (T2)--five days apart. The QOL scores were compared between patients who received a tracheostomy and those who did not, as well as between those who received a tracheostomy before and after ten days of intubation. The modified University of Washington Quality of Life (UWQOL) questionnaire was easily administered by one person. Patients were able to answer all the questions by writing or pointing at the answer choices with either an endotracheal or a tracheostomy tube in place. The mean time to complete the questionnaire was 7.5 minutes. QOL scores ranging from 0 to 800 were administered. Pain and speech were the most important domains contributing to QOL. The median QOL scores were 242 at T0 and T1, and 383 at T2. There was a significant difference in the median QOL scores between those who received a tracheostomy (458) and those who remained endotracheally intubated (175) at T2. Similarly, patients who received early tracheostomy reached a higher QOL score by T1 compared to those who did not (417 vs. 267). This pilot study demonstrates that a modified questionnaire to assess QOL in patients with prolonged mechanical ventilation is feasible, and useful in capturing artificial airway-related QOL. Further studies should evaluate the utility of this tool in a larger study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6-8, 10-13
JournalORL-head and neck nursing : official journal of the Society of Otorhinolaryngology and Head-Neck Nurses
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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