Objective: Tracheobronchial obstruction is infrequent in the pediatric age group but it is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. The purpose of this study is to review the results of a single institution experience with endoscopic stent placement in children with benign tracheobronchial obstruction, and with special concern on safety and clinical effectiveness.
Materials and methods: Twenty-one patients with severe airway stenosing disease in which stent placement was performed between 1993 and 2006. Inclusion criteria according to the clinical status were: failure to wean from ventilation, episode of apnea, frequent respiratory infections (>3 pneumonia/year), and severe respiratory distress. Additional criteria for stent placement were: failure of surgical treatment, bronchomalacia, and tracheomalacia refractory to previous tracheostomy. Selection of the type of stent depended on the site of the lesion, the patient's age, and the stent availability when time of presentation. The following variables were retrospectively evaluated: age, type of obstruction, associated malformations, stent properties, technical and clinical success, complications and related reinterventions, outcome and follow-up period.
Results: Thirty-three stents were placed in the trachea (n=18) and/or bronchi (n=15) of 21 patients with a median age of 6 months (range, 9 days-19 years). Etiology of the airway obstruction included severe tracheomalacia and/or bronchomalacia in 19 cases (90%), and postoperative tracheal stenosis in two. Twelve children had a total of 20 balloon-expandable metallic stents placed, and 10 had 13 silicone-type stents (one patient had both). In nine patients (42%) more than one device was placed. Stent positioning was technically successful in all but one patient. Clinical improvement was observed in 18 patients (85%) but complications occurred in five of them (27%). Eight patients died during follow-up but only in one case it was related to airway stenting. Thirteen patients (62%) are alive and in good condition with a mean follow-up of 39 months (1-13.8 years).
Conclusions: Although the results were based on a small series, placement of stents in the pediatric airway to treat tracheobronchial obstruction seems to be safe and effective. Stenting is a satisfactory therapeutic option when other procedures have failed or are not indicated.