Background: We report experience with Ultraflex metallic stents (Boston Scientific, Natick, MA) inserted at rigid bronchoscopy under general anesthesia for palliation of benign and malignant upper airway obstruction.
Methods: Notes of all patients treated with Ultraflex stents from 1999 to 2003 were reviewed for symptomatic response, spirometric data, and any complications before discharge home. Long-term outcome was assessed by questionnaires sent to patients' general practitioners.
Results: Recruited were 66 patients (12 benign, 54 malignant airway obstructions). Before discharge home, breathlessness improved in 11 of 12 patients with benign obstruction and in 39 of 54 with malignancies. Postoperative complications in 10 patients with malignant obstructions and in 2 patients with benign obstruction were successfully controlled. It was not possible to perform preoperative pulmonary function tests in most of the patients who presented as emergencies. Mean improvement in forced expiratory volume in 1 second was 0.88 liters in 3 patients with benign obstruction and 0.28 liters in 14 patients with malignant obstruction, and mean peak expiratory flow rate improved by 109 L/min and 97 L/min, respectively. General practitioners completed questionnaires for 12 benign patients and 46 of 54 patients with malignancies. At a mean follow-up of 1017 days (range, 46 to 1120 days), 10 of the 12 patients with benign disease were alive and 7 of 46 patients with malignant airway obstruction were alive, with a median survival of 128 days (mean, 361; range, 3 to 1859 days). Most survivors had Medical Research Council grade III breathlessness or better, with few stent-related symptoms.
Conclusions: Ultraflex stents proved safe and effective in prolonged palliation of benign and malignant airways obstruction.