Beckie Petulla

and 3 more

Objectives: Paediatric patients living with tracheostomies are a medically vulnerable group. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be apprehension about their susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection with unknown consequences. Healthcare workers managing this cohort can be anxious about viral transmission from respiratory secretions and aerosols emerging from the open airway. Our objective is to share a systematic approach to minimise incidental mismanagement, avoid iatrogenic airway injury, reduce aerosolisation and decrease staff exposure when treating these patients. Methods: A COVID-19 emergency management plan was created for paediatric patients with tracheostomies in the event of presentation with unknown, suspected or proven SARS-CoV-2 infection. Three documents were developed: a generic tracheostomy management plan detailing troubleshooting measures to reduce air leak from around the tube; a personalised management plan with customised recommendations; a guide for tracheostomy tube change with emphasis on minimising aerosol production. Results: Our plan was distributed to 31 patients (age range 11 months - 17 years) including 23 (74.2%) with uncuffed tubes and 9 (29%) on long term ventilation. There have been 10 occasions in which the plan was utilised and influenced care, including 4 situations where successful troubleshooting avoided tube manipulation and 6 situations where an uncuffed tube was safely replaced with a pre-selected cuffed tube to reduce air leak. Conclusions: A structured approach to emergency presentations during the COVID-19 pandemic may safeguard paediatric patients from unnecessary manipulation of their tracheostomy tube and airway trauma, as well as provide guidance to minimise viral exposure and allow provision of expeditious care.