Purpose: To report a case of airway obstruction with hypoxia during emergence from anesthesia due to unexpected tracheobronchomalacia in a child.
Clinical features: In a previously healthy 22-month-old boy with no symptoms or signs of respiratory disease, general anesthesia was induced by inhalation of increasing concentrations of sevoflurane (up to 5%) in oxygen and a laryngeal mask was inserted. Partial airway obstruction persisted during surgery, but obstruction was relieved by positive-pressure ventilation. During emergence from anesthesia, airway obstruction with hypoxia occurred, necessitating tracheal intubation. Emission of carbon dioxide as well as of sevoflurane was reduced and emergence from anesthesia markedly delayed. Fibreoptic tracheoscopy showed marked collapse of the tracheobronchi during expiration, and a diagnosis of tracheobronchomalacia was made. No respiratory complications occurred postoperatively.
Conclusion: Asymptomatic tracheomalacia should also be suspected in case of airway obstruction during anesthesia in young children.