External stenting: A reliable technique to relieve airway obstruction in small children

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Airway obstruction in children may be caused by conditions such as vascular compression and congenital tracheobronchomalacia. Obstructive pulmonary vascular disease may be a detrimental sequel for patients with congenital heart disease. We evaluate our own original external stenting technique as a treatment option for these patients.


Ninety-eight patients underwent external stenting (1997-2015). Cardiovascular anomalies were noted in 82 (83.7%). Nine patients had hypoplastic left heart syndrome and 6 had other types of single-ventricular hearts.


The median age at the first operation was 7.2 months (range, 1.0-77.1 months). The mechanisms were tracheobronchomalacia with (n = 46) or without (n = 52) vascular compression. Patients underwent 127 external stentings for 139 obstruction sites (62 trachea, 55 left bronchus, and 22 right bronchus). The stent sizes varied from 12 to 16 mm. There were 14 (8 in the hospital and 6 after discharge) mortality cases. Nine required reoperation for restenosis and 3 required stent removal for infection. The actuarial freedom from mortality and any kind of reoperation was 74.7% ± 4.6% after 2.8 years. The negative pressure threshold to induce airway collapse for congenital malacia (n = 58) improved from −15.9 to −116.0 cmH2O. A follow-up computed tomography scan (>2.0 years interval from the operation; n = 23) showed the mean diameter of the stented segment at 88.5% ± 13.7% (bronchus) and 94.5% ± 8.2% (trachea) of the reference.


External stenting is a reliable method to relieve airway compression for small children, allowing an age-proportional growth of the airway.

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