Article Abstract

Malignant central airway obstruction

Authors: Lakshmi Mudambi, Russell Miller, George A. Eapen


This review comprehensively describes recent advances in the management of malignant central airway obstruction (CAO). Malignant CAO can be a dramatic and devastating manifestation of primary lung cancer or metastatic disease. A variety of diagnostic modalities are available to provide valuable information to plan a therapeutic intervention. Clinical heterogeneity in the presentation of malignant CAO provides opportunities to adapt and utilize endoscopic technology and tools in many ways. Mechanical debulking, thermal tools, cryotherapy and airway stents are methods and instruments used to rapidly restore airway patency. Delayed bronchoscopic methods, such as photodynamic therapy (PDT) and brachytherapy can also be utilized in specific non-emergent situations to establish airway patency. Although data regarding the success and complications of therapeutic interventions are retrospective and characterized by clinical and outcome measure variability, the symptoms of malignant CAO can often be successfully palliated. Assessment of risks and benefits of interventions in each individual patient during the decision-making process forms the critical foundation of the management of malignant CAO.