Therapeutic bronchoscopy in broncholithiasis

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1999 Sep;160(3):766-70. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.160.3.9810021.


Bronchoscopy is considered the most important diagnostic test for broncholithiasis. However, its role in the treatment of broncholithiasis in a large group of patients has not been studied. To evaluate the therapeutic role of bronchoscopy, we retrospectively reviewed the clinical data of patients with broncholithiasis who also underwent bronchoscopy at Mayo Clinic. Bronchoscopy revealed 127 broncholiths (free or partly eroded calcified material in the airway lumen) in 95 patients (49 men and 46 women) evaluated between 1954 and 1994. Bronchoscopic removal of 71 (56%) broncholiths was attempted in 48 patients (50.5%) during 61 bronchoscopy sessions. Forty-eight of the broncholiths selected for removal were partly eroding into the tracheobronchial lumen and 23 were free. Forty-eight percent (23 of 48) of the partly eroding broncholiths were successfully removed bronchoscopically, with a greater percentage removed with the rigid bronchoscope (67%) than with the flexible bronchoscope (30%). All free broncholiths were completely extracted regardless of the type of bronchoscope used. Complications occurred in only two patients (4% of the bronchoscopic broncholithectomy group), both with partially eroded broncholiths, and consisted of hemorrhage in one patient requiring thoracotomy and acute dyspnea in another patient, caused by a loose broncholith lodged in the trachea. We conclude that flexible and/or rigid bronchoscopic extraction of partly eroded or free broncholiths in the tracheobronchial tree can be considered safe and effective.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bronchial Diseases / diagnosis
  • Bronchial Diseases / therapy*
  • Bronchoscopy / adverse effects
  • Bronchoscopy / methods*
  • Calculi / diagnosis
  • Calculi / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome