Aortic allografts: final destination?—a summary of clinical tracheal substitutes
The patient population in desperate need for an airway substitute are individuals with long segment tracheal defects that are considered, technically, inoperable. Regardless of the underlying etiology, benign or malignant growing processes, this patient category enters a palliative setting or require tracheal transplantation. Different airway substitutes have been categorized by Grillo as follows; tracheal transplantation, autogenous tissue, non-viable tissue, tissue-engineering and foreign materials. These fields have been explored in the past in animal models and in clinical patients. Research on airway replacement has been exposed to a level of controversies in the past years. The field has been turbulent and apocryphal. In particular, the area of tissue-engineering using stem cells has suffered from a major set-back leaving scientists, clinicians and ethical committees skeptical. Recently, a hopeful study emerged using aortic allografts as tracheal substitutes in patients with airway defects. The initial results seem promising and reliable. The developments of the field at this point seem striking and hopeful. The focus of this review is to shed light on developments in the field of aortic allografts as substitute for tracheal replacement.