Tracheoinnominate Artery Fistula
This simulation provides training for emergency medicine residents in the stepwise management of a patient who presents with bleeding from a tracheoinnominate artery fistula. Additional learners who might benefit from this simulation are otolaryngology and general surgery residents as well as critical care fellows.
Hemorrhage from a tracheoinnominate artery fistula (TIAF) is a rare but life-threatening complication in a patient with a recent tracheostomy. This complication occurs in 0.7% of tracheostomy patients with a mortality of 50-70%.¹ Seventy-five percent of patients with a TIAF will present within the first three weeks of surgery and 50% of patients will present with a sentinel bleed that briefly resolves.¹ Key elements of a history and exam that should raise a provider’s concern for this diagnosis include a recent tracheostomy (within the last 4 weeks), a percutaneous tracheostomy, prior radiation, chronic steroid use, a neck or chest deformity or a sentinel bleed.² Survival from a TIAFhinges upon emergent, operative repair by an otolaryngologist and cardiothoracic surgeon. Cuff hyperinflation and theUtley Maneuver are critical bedside interventions to temporize this massive bleed and stabilize the patient for definitive, operative repair.
By the end of this simulation, learners will be able to: 1) perform a focused history and physical exam on any patient who presents with bleeding from the tracheostomy site, 2) describe the differential diagnosis of bleeding from a tracheostomy site, including a TIAF, 3) demonstrate the stepwise management of bleeding from a suspected TIAF, including cuff hyperinflation and the Utley Maneuver, 4) verify that definitive airway control via endotracheal intubation is only feasible in the tracheostomy patient when it is clear, upon history and exam, that the patient can be intubated from above, 5) demonstrate additional critical actions in the management of a patient with a TIAF, including early consultation with otolaryngology and cardiothoracic surgery as well as emergent blood transfusion and activation of a massive transfusion protocol.
This case was written with a modified, low-fidelity manikin, traditionally used for training in nasogastric tube placement and tracheostomy care. We modified this manikin to simulate a hemorrhage from the tracheostomy site.3 The patient in our case had a history of laryngeal cancer, and thus we occluded his larynx for this simulation. As a result of this obstruction, he was unable to be intubated from above. We provided confederates, a bedside nurse and family member, to assist the learners throughout the case. We also utilized a simulation technician to operate dynamic vital signs on a simulated cardiac monitor. It would be technically challenging to adapt this case to a high-fidelity simulator due to potential for damage of the internal electrical elements by the large amount of artificial blood from the tracheostomy tube. However, a mechanical pump provided a useful means of active bleeding in this low-fidelity manikin.
We provided a pre- and post-simulation questionnaire for the 33 emergency medicine residents who participated in this simulation. There were 11 residents from each of the PGY-1, PGY-2 and PGY-3 year-groups. Thirty-two residents (97%) completed the pre-survey and 33 residents (100%) completed the post-survey. For our questions, we used a 5-point Likert Scale to assess a resident’s knowledge of the learning objectives within this simulation.
Responses from our pre- and post- survey indicated a significant improvement in knowledge about a tracheoinnominate artery fistula as well as the general management of tracheostomy complications in the emergency department.
This simulation is a useful educational tool for instructing emergency medicine residents on optimal management of tracheostomy emergencies such as a TIAF. The interprofessional teaching by an emergency medicine attending and mid-level (PGY-3) otolaryngology resident allowed for a richer and more detailed discussion during the debriefing. Throughout the case, the emergency medicine attending played the role of a bedside nurse and offered supportive, clinical cues when bleeding recurred. The otolaryngology resident played the role of a family member and offered helpful cues during the history and exam portion of the case. Following the case, both content experts provided useful clinical insight during the debriefing. If staffing availability permits, it might be advantageous to use additional simulation-trained personnel to play the roles of the nurse and family member, thus allowing the emergency medicine attending and otolaryngology content experts to simply view the case from the control room and perform the debriefing.
Tracheostomy, surgical airway, tracheoinnominate artery fistula, bleeding from tracheostomy site, complications with tracheostomies, hemorrhagic shock.