Complications after tracheal resection and reconstruction: prevention and treatment
Tracheal resection and reconstruction (TRR) and laryngotracheal resection and reconstruction (LTRR) is commonly performed for post-intubation tracheal stenosis, tracheal tumor, idiopathic laryngotracheal stenosis (ILTS), and tracheoesophageal fistula (TEF). Ninety-five percent of patients have a good result from surgery. Complications occur in ~20% of patients, of which half are anastomotic complications. Complications include granulation tissue formation, restenosis of the trachea, anastomotic separation, TEF and tracheoinnominate fistula (TIF), wound infection, laryngeal edema, and glottic dysfunction. Risk factors for anastomotic complication include diabetes, reoperation, previous tracheal appliance, and long-segment tracheal resection. Bronchoscopy should be part of the diagnostic workup when a complication is suspected. Anastomotic separation—the most feared complication of tracheal surgery—may present subtly with stridor and wound infection, or with respiratory distress and extremis. Prompt management is required to prevent devastating consequences. The airway should be secured, bronchoscopy should be performed to address the degree of separation, and the anastomosis should be revised if needed, usually with the addition of t-tube or tracheostomy. Anastomotic complications that are managed aggressively typically yield good results. More than half of such patients will eventually have a satisfactory airway. However, an anastomotic complication is associated with a thirteen-fold increase in the risk of death following tracheal resection.