Successful management of a patient with tracheo innominate artery erosion requires the rapid institution of specific resuscitative and operative measures. Ten patients seen at the Charity Hospital of Louisiana in New Orleans and 127 documented cases from the world literature were analyzed regarding predisposing factors, diagnostic features, resuscitative measures and operative treatment. Diagnoses associated with abnormal neck positioning were seen in 48% of patients with tracheo innominate erosions. In 69% of 96 instances, the site of erosion was located at the cannula end and implicates excessive anterior pressure. Caution is recommended in those patients with abnormal neck positions, low placed tracheostomy stomas and individuals with asthenic habitus. Resuscitative measures were highly successful when the tracheal balloon was inflated or when the method of retrosternal finger pressure was used. All personnel providing care for patients with tracheostomies should be aware of the initial measure of balloon inflation. Operative measures which permanently interrupted the innominate artery in the area of possible future erosion were the most successful. Of the 22 cases in which the innominate artery was sacrificed, only one had evidence of cerebral ischemia. Timely institution of proper measures can result in salvage of an unexpected number of these otherwise dramatic fatalities.
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