Surgical approaches to membranous tracheal wall lacerations

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BackgroundSmaller postintubation tracheal tears are often misdiagnosed and, when recognized, they are effectively managed in a conservative fashion. Large membranous lacerations, especially if associated with important manifestations, require immediate surgical repair. We report our experience over the past 7 years.MethodsFrom 1993 to 1999, 11 patients with a postintubation posterior tracheal wall laceration were treated in our institution. One patient was male and 10 were female, with a mean age of 68 years. Ten patients underwent orotracheal intubation under general anesthesia for elective surgery, 4 of whom were treated with a double-lumen selective tube. One patient underwent emergency intubation because of anaphylactic shock. In 9 cases the tracheal tear was promptly repaired, by way of a thoracotomy in 4 and by way of a cervicotomy and longitudinal tracheotomy in 5. In 2 cases the tear was small and was consequently managed conservatively.ResultsAll surgical procedures proved effective in repairing the laceration, and there was no mortality or morbidity in the perioperative period. Early and late endoscopic follow-up showed no signs of tracheobronchial stenosis.ConclusionsWhen repair of membranous tracheal laceration is required, the surgical approach should be through a thoracotomy if the tear involves the distal trachea, a main stem, or both, and through a cervicotomy when the laceration is located in the proximal two thirds of the trachea. Performing a longitudinal tracheotomy to reach and suture the posterior tracheal wall is a reliable, quick, and safe procedure, and it avoids lateral and posterior dissection of the trachea. (J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2000;120:115-8)

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