Study objectives: Autopsy evaluation of tracheobronchomalacia (TBM) in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) who were receiving long-term ventilation through uncuffed tracheostomies.
Design: Necropsies were performed in seven patients with DMD who had received positive-pressure ventilation through uncuffed tracheostomies for a duration of 5 to 30 years.
Setting: Rehabilitation facility affiliated with a university medical center.
Results: The range of peak airway pressures sustained during ventilation by all the patients was 23 mm Hg to 36 mm Hg. Bronchoscopy (which was performed in four of the five patients) detected tracheomalacia in only one of the patients. Five of the seven patients demonstrated variable degrees of airway malacia. Two patients also had tracheal perforations, one of which resulted in a fatal hemorrhage from a tracheovascular fistula.
Conclusions: Given enough time, patients receiving positive-pressure ventilation can develop airway thinning and dilation even without the use of an inflated tracheostomy cuff. There is also a potential for tracheal erosion into an adjacent artery that can lead to fatal hemorrhage. Such findings also have implications for individuals receiving noninvasive positive-pressure ventilation, who could develop TBM as a result of the continuous cycling pressures on the airway wall.