Management of Tracheostomy Scar by Autologous Fat Transplantation: A Minimally Invasive New Approach

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Abstract

Background

Tracheotomy is a life-saving operation but may have bothersome sequelae. Because the defect resulting from tracheostomy is often allowed to repair spontaneously by secondary intention, hypertrophic scar formation is a frequent consequence. Furthermore, skin-to-trachea adhesions may develop, creating a “tracheal tug,” that is, the skin movement in conjunction with the trachea, causing discomfort on swallowing. The aim of this study was to verify whether lipofilling could treat the aesthetic and functional disturbances by remodeling tracheostomy scars.

Methods

Ten patients, aged 20 to 51 years, with retracted and/or hypertrophic tracheostomy scar underwent fat injection under local anesthesia or sedation. Fat harvesting was by a 2-mm blunt cannula connected to a 10-mL syringe. Before inserting the refined fat with a 19-gauge cannula, the fibrotic bands of the retracted scar between skin and underlying tissue were released with a sharp needle. The procedure required 2 sessions with an interval of 6 to 12 months. In the first session, 3.0 to 10 mL of fat were inserted. A further 3 to 5 mL were delivered during the second course. In 3 cases, scar excision was performed under local anesthesia as a final procedure.

Results

All 10 patients achieved an aesthetic and functional improvement and were satisfied with the result at long-term follow-up (mean, 21.3 months).

Conclusions

Fat grafting proved to be a safe, minimally invasive, and effective procedure for the treatment of the tracheostomy scar both for functional and aesthetic purposes. It can be considered as a valid alternative to major open surgery.

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