Study objective: Severe idiopathic scoliosis is associated with respiratory failure. This usually is secondary to restrictive airway disease and reduced vital capacity. Patients may also suffer from an increase in airway resistance when severe kyphoscoliosis is present.
Setting: Three patients (two of whom required assisted ventilation) with varying degrees of kyphoscoliosis presented with moderate to severe breathing difficulties.
Intervention: Bronchoscopic examination of these patients showed evidence of torsion with secondary obstruction of the central airways.
Results: The airway obstruction was notable for its slit-like appearance, for the normality of the mucosa at the site of the obstruction, for the relative ease through which an instrument could traverse the obstruction, and once the retained secretions had been cleared, for the preservation of normal anatomy of the distal airways. The insertion of metal prostheses to stent the areas of obstruction prompted an impressive improvement in respiratory status, radiologic findings, and spirometric criteria in each case. Improvement has been maintained over a maximum follow-up period of 4 years.
Conclusion: Severe kyphoscoliosis can lead to bronchial torsion and obstruction of the central airways. Patients should be assessed by bronchoscopy to exclude this deformity or any other cause of obstruction. The use of a metal endobronchial stent has been effective in both the immediate and long-term period.