Background: Tracheobronchial injuries are rare but potentially life threatening. Their successful diagnosis and treatment often require a high level of suspicion and surgical repairs unique to the given injury.
Methods: We reviewed our experience with 32 patients with tracheobronchial injuries treated over the past 28 years.
Results: Forty-one percent (13/32) of the injuries were due to blunt trauma and 59% (19/32), to penetrating trauma. Most penetrating injuries were located in the cervical trachea (74%), whereas blunt injuries were more commonly located close to the carina (62%). Fifty-nine percent of the patients required urgent measures to secure the airway. Penetrating injuries were usually diagnosed by clinical findings or at surgical exploration. The diagnosis of blunt injuries was more difficult and required a high index of suspicion and the liberal use of bronchoscopy. The majority of the injuries were repaired primarily using techniques specific to the injury, and most patients returned to their normal activity soon after discharge.
Conclusions: A high level of suspicion and the liberal use of bronchoscopy are important in the diagnosis of tracheobronchial injury. A tailored surgical approach is often necessary for definitive repair.