Background and objectives: Trauma, emergent tracheostomy, and prolonged intubation are common causes of severe deformation and narrowing of the trachea. Laser technology may be used to reshape tracheal cartilage using minimally invasive methods. The objectives of this study were to determine: (1) the dependence of tracheal cartilage shape change on temperature and laser dosimetry using heated saline bath immersion and laser irradiation, respectively, (2) the effect of temperature on the mechanical behavior of cartilage, and (3) tissue viability as a function of laser dosimetry.
Materials and methods: Ex vivo rabbit trachea cartilage specimens were bent and secured around a cylinder (6 mm), and then immersed in a saline bath (45 and 72 degrees C) for 5-100 seconds. In separate experiments, tracheal specimens were irradiated with a diode laser (lambda = 1.45 microm, 220-400 J/cm(2)). Mechanical analysis was then used to determine the elastic modulus in tension after irradiation. Fluorescent viability assays combined with laser scanning confocal microscopy (LSCM) were employed to image and identify thermal injury regions.
Results: Shape change transition zones, between 62 and 66 degrees C in the saline heating bath and above power densities of 350 J/cm(2) (peak temperatures 65+/-10 degrees C) for laser irradiation were identified. Above these zones, the elastic moduli were higher (8.2+/-4 MPa) than at lower temperatures (4.5+/-3 MPa). LSCM identified significant loss of viable chondrocytes within the laser-irradiation zones.
Conclusion: Our results indicate a change in mechanical properties occurs with laser irradiation and further demonstrates that significant thermal damage is concurrent with clinically relevant shape change in the elastic cartilage tissues of the rabbit trachea using the present laser and dosimetry parameters.
(c) 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.