Tracheal or esophageal compression due to benign thyroid disease

Am J Surg. 1981 Sep;142(3):350-4. doi: 10.1016/0002-9610(81)90346-9.


Tracheal or esophageal compression was present in 91 (33 percent) of 273 consecutive patients with benign goiter during a 7 year experience. The underlying disease was nodular colloid goiter in 66 percent, adenoma in 21 percent, thyroiditis in 9 percent and Graves' disease in 4 percent. The incidence of tracheoesophageal compression was higher in patients with thyroiditis (67 percent) than in those with colloid goiter (46 percent). Thirty of 91 patients were completely asymptomatic but had marked tracheal deviation on roentgenography. Two thirds presented with significant dyspnea, or dysphagia or both. A long history of goiter preceding the onset of symptoms and progressive worsening of compression symptoms after its onset were common in the latter group. Previous radiographs demonstrating significant tracheal deviation during a previous presymptomatic period were available in 11 of 36 dyspneic patients. Sudden tracheal occlusion developed in 3 percent and required emergency treatment. Tracheal compression occurred more often and when present was a more ominous symptom. Compression manifestations were more frequent in patients with multinodular goiter, were more likely to appear when the underlying disorder was thyroiditis affected the tracheal more often than the esophagus and were generally gradually progressive with time. A clinical spectrum ranging from a presymptomatic tracheal compression stage to one wherein progressive worsening of symptoms occurs is suggested. After symptoms of tracheal compression become clinically manifest, the occurrence of complete airway occlusion may be sudden and unpredictable. Early operation whenever roentgenographic evidence of tracheal deviation becomes manifest is recommended.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Deglutition Disorders / etiology
  • Dyspnea / etiology
  • Esophageal Stenosis / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiography
  • Thyroid Diseases / complications*
  • Thyroid Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Thyroid Diseases / surgery
  • Tracheal Stenosis / etiology*