Tracheobronchial stenting in the terminal care of cancer patients with central airways obstruction

Chest. 2001 Dec;120(6):1811-4. doi: 10.1378/chest.120.6.1811.


Study objectives: To evaluate the palliative benefit of stent insertion in a group of patients with central airways obstruction due to terminal cancer.

Design: Retrospective analysis of the symptomatic score of patients immediately after stent insertion, and questionnaires completed by the general practitioner (GP) after the patients died at home.

Setting: Academic hospital, tertiary referral center for interventional bronchoscopy.

Patients and methods: Fourteen patients with imminent suffocation due to major obstruction of the central airways, caused by end-stage esophageal cancer (n = 5) and non-small cell lung cancer (n = 9), were referred for stent insertion. All prostheses were placed within 24 h after hospital admittance. Patients were then asked whether their symptoms had improved. After the patients died, a questionnaire was sent to each patient's GP.

Results: All patients expressed immediate benefit after stenting. The average length of survival after stent insertion was 11 weeks (range, 0.5 to 34 weeks). Two patients died within 1 week in our hospital after stent placement. In the remaining 12 patients, the GP considered stent insertion in 7 patients to be worthwhile, no judgment was made in 4 patients, and stent insertion in 1 patient was regarded as futile.

Conclusion: Despite terminal disease and the fact that, in our country, patients may legally refuse any treatment and formally ask for euthanasia, the palliative benefit of stent placement should always be considered. All patients had immediate symptomatic relief afterwards. Retrospectively, the GPs responsible for terminal care at home still considered stent insertion worthwhile in 58% (7 of 12 patients) of cases. Stent placement should always be considered as part of the treatment of terminal cancer patients with imminent suffocation.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Airway Obstruction / mortality
  • Airway Obstruction / therapy*
  • Bronchial Diseases / mortality
  • Bronchial Diseases / therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / therapy*
  • Cause of Death
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Lung Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Palliative Care*
  • Recurrence
  • Stents*
  • Survival Rate
  • Terminal Care*
  • Tracheal Stenosis / mortality
  • Tracheal Stenosis / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome