Objective: To determine the role of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and how it relates to endoscopy as well as to other imaging modalities in the evaluation of pediatric airway disorders.
Design: A review study of children with various distal airway disorders over a 3-year period. Surgical procedures as well as all diagnostic imaging modalities were reviewed and analyzed with respect to clinical outcome.
Setting: Academic tertiary care children's hospitals.
Patients: Forty-nine children between the ages of 1 week and 14 years with the signs and symptoms of distal airway disorders.
Interventions: Forty-five of 49 children underwent airway endoscopy. Fourteen children also underwent fluoroscopy and 4 underwent echocardiography. When indicated, open surgical repair was performed and used to verify findings in 32 cases.
Results: Magnetic resonance imaging was the most accurate modality in defining extrinsic airway abnormalities. The findings of echocardiography were incorrect in 2 of 4 cases, and fluoroscopy, although accurate for tracheal narrowing and tracheomalacia, often could not elucidate that exact cause or missed left mainstem bronchial compression. Furthermore, tracheal narrowing to 50% or greater on MRI correlated 100% with the need for surgical intervention.
Conclusions: Magnetic resonance imaging is a useful modality that has allowed us to accurately diagnose extrinsic pediatric tracheal abnormalities. In certain cases, MRI scans can be obtained prior to endoscopy. In those cases, definitive endoscopy and open repair are performed at the same procedure instead of at 2 separate procedures (ie, one for diagnostic endoscopy and the other for definitive repair).