Study objectives: Surgery is the treatment of choice for symptomatic tracheal obstruction due to benign or malignant thyroid disease. In case of inoperability, or when surgery is refused, few therapeutic alternatives are available. Interventional bronchoscopic procedures have only been reported anecdotally. The objective of this study is to evaluate the results of interventional bronchoscopic procedures in the treatment of severe tracheal obstruction due to thyroid disease.
Study design: Retrospective cohort analysis.
Setting: University hospital, tertiary referral center.
Patients: Thirty consecutive patients referred for bronchoscopic treatment of benign (n = 17) or malignant (n = 13) thyroid-related upper airway obstruction due to tracheomalacia, extrinsic compression, and/or tracheal ingrowth. Indications for bronchoscopic treatment were medical or surgical inoperability, prevention or treatment of tracheomalacia, and refusal of surgery. There were no procedure-related complications.
Interventions: Rigid bronchoscopy with dilatation, stenting and/or Nd-YAG laser treatment, and clinical follow-up.
Measurements and results: Subjective improvement, pulmonary function tests, early and late complications, and survival. In the benign group, immediate (100% relief of dyspnea) and long-term (88% relief of dyspnea) results were excellent after airway stenting (21 stents used in 17 patients). There was one unrelated death 1 week after stenting in a 98-year-old patient. There were 6% and 30% short-term and long-term complications, respectively, that could be managed endoscopically. In the malignant group, Nd-YAG laser treatment (n = 3) and stenting (n = 13) yielded immediate and long-term success in 92% of patients. There were 15% short-term and 8% long-term complications. Median survival time was 540 days.
Conclusions: Interventional bronchoscopic procedures including Nd-YAG laser treatment and stenting are valuable alternatives to surgery in inoperable thyroid-induced tracheal obstruction, or when surgery is refused.