Background: Major airways obstruction is a distressing cause of morbidity and mortality. For disease that is extensive and recurrent, there is a need for a safe and cost effective technique for palliation.
Methods: The results of 29 patients with tracheobronchial obstruction (24 malignant and five benign) treated by diathermy resection alone or in combination with endobronchial stenting have been reviewed.
Results: The major site of obstruction was the trachea in 14, main carina in seven, right main bronchus in six, and left main bronchus in two patients. Fifteen had received other forms of treatment beforehand including external radiotherapy, endoscopic dilatation, and laser resection (Nd:YAG). Five patients required two or more treatment sessions for symptom recurrence. Ten patients also received additional treatment with a stent (nine) or insertion of gold grains (one). There were no intraoperative deaths or complications and the average length of stay was five days (range 2-14). Twenty eight patients reported immediate symptomatic relief, and objective improvement in the results of lung function tests was seen in eight patients whose condition was less acute and where preoperative lung function tests could be undertaken (average improvement in FEV1 of 53.1% and in FVC of 20.6%).
Conclusions: Bronchoscopic diathermy resection is an effective and safe method for relieving the symptoms of tracheobronchial obstruction at appreciably less cost than laser resection.