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Use of a bougie during percutaneous tracheostomy

Airway techniques for percutaneous tracheostomy include the LMA, the Combitube, the Microlaryngeal tube and the Perforated Airway Exchanger. Routine bronchoscopy is deemed unnecessary by many, including intensivists in Cardiff. Our audit database stores patient characteristics, techniques and complications, in 700 tracheostomies.

A bougie was used during 46. This technique does not use bronchoscopic control. A bougie is passed through the tracheal tube (TT) into the trachea. The TT is withdrawn until the cuff is above the vocal cords. With the cuff fully inflated, the TT is advanced (using the bougie as a guide) until the cuff impacts on the vocal cords. A gas-seal is maintained by gentle pressure on the TT keeping the cuff pressing on the vocal cords. During percutaneous tracheostomy the bougie remains in the trachea. When ventilation through the tracheostomy tube (cuff inflated) is confirmed, the TT and bougie are withdrawn. Throughout the procedure, if ventilation difficulties occur, the TT can be easily re-inserted using the bougie as a guide.


Three different bougies were used: types (number used) were Eschmann (29), size 10 Portex disposable (four) and size 12 Portex disposable (13). Three patients were trauma cases: a neutral cervical position was maintained. In 33 cases the Blue Rhino dilator and in 12 cases the Ultra-Perc (White Rhino) dilator was used. One case was a serial dilator (see later).


The bougie for airway control for percutaneous tracheostomy was associated with zero hypoxic episodes in 46 cases. Minor bougie damage in two cases caused no problems. Other complications seen were either minor or unlikely to be due to the bougie.

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Read, M. Use of a bougie during percutaneous tracheostomy. Crit Care 8 (Suppl 1), P2 (2004).

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