Rationale: It is postulated that in patients with severe tracheobronchomalacia (TBM), airway stabilization with stents may relieve symptoms.
Objectives: To evaluate the effect of silicone stents (tracheal, mainstem bronchus, or both) on symptoms, quality of life, lung function, and exercise capacity in these patients.
Methods: A prospective observational study in which baseline measurements were compared to those obtained 10 to 14 days after stent placement.
Measurements and main results: Of 75 referred patients, 58 had severe disease and underwent therapeutic rigid bronchoscopy with stent placement. Mean age was 69 years (range, 39 to 91 years), 34 were men, 33 had COPD, and 13 had asthma. Almost all patients (n = 57) had dyspnea as a sole symptom or in combination with cough and recurrent infections; four patients required mechanical ventilation for respiratory failure. In 45 of 58 patients, there was reported symptomatic improvement; quality of life scores improved in 19 of 27 patients (p = 0.002); dyspnea scores improved in 22 of 24 patients (p = 0.001); functional status scores improved in 18 of 26 patients (p = 0.002); and mean exercise capacity improved from baseline, although not significantly. The 49 complications included mainly 21 partial stent obstructions, 14 infections, and 10 stent migrations. Most patients with concomitant COPD also improved on most measures.
Conclusions: In the short term, airway stabilization with silicone stents in patients with severe TBM can improve respiratory symptoms, quality of life, and functional status. Coexisting COPD is not an absolute contraindication to a stenting trial in this population. Stenting is associated with a high number of short-term and long-term but generally reversible complications.