Study design: Case series.
Setting: North West Regional Spinal Injuries Unit, Southport and Formby District General Hospital, UK.
Objectives: To identify a novel type of tracheal stents for use in patients with high spinal cord injury. Patients with high spinal cord injury (above C4) frequently have significant respiratory impairment and may require long-term access to the trachea for respiratory support. For the most part, tracheostomy tubes are used for this purpose but a tracheal stoma stent can offer a suitable alternative in selected cases and deserves wider recognition.
Methods: Following completion of a patient questionnaire survey, the authors describe the use of stoma stents in nine patients, five of whom had full-time diaphragm pacing. The stent in these cases is for retention of access for positive pressure ventilation, and for the prevention of obstructive sleep apnoea. This was also the indication in one self-ventilating patient with tetraplegia and sleep apnoea. Two patients with recurrent chest infections, in whom chest physiotherapy was difficult, benefited from the stoma stents. One patient, after ventilator weaning, required a further 4 months of tracheal access on account of episodic hypoventilation and temporarily had a tracheal stent as an inpatient.
Conclusion: Patients who have had the benefit of tracheal stents report significant improvement in relation to local discomfort, tracheobronchial secretions and vocalization. With suitable training, the stents can be changed and cleaned easily in the home setting.