Article Abstract

Surgery of the airway: historic notes

Authors: Joel D. Cooper


Prior to the 20th century, the need for surgical procedures on the airway was infrequent and consisted mainly of tracheostomy to relieve airway obstruction or repair of tracheal injuries such as lacerations. Even the ability of tracheal suture lines to heal primarily was viewed with concern due to the rigidity of the tracheal wall, its precarious blood supply and uncertainty as to whether the cartilage components could heal without complications. In the 20th century the evolution of tracheal procedures on major airways evolved to meet the challenges provided by the expanding fields of thoracic surgery and advent of mechanical respiratory support with its associated complications. In the first half of the century lobar and lung resections done for tuberculosis and lung cancer required methods for safe closure of the resulting bronchial stumps and end-to-end bronchial anastomosis in the case of sleeve resections of the lung. Beginning in mid-century the advent of respiratory care units for the treatment of polio and for the expanding fields of thoracic and cardiac surgery resulted in a significant number of post-intubation tracheal stenosis requiring resection and primary repair. In the last 20 years of the century the development of lung transplantation with its requirement for successful bronchial anastomoses between the donor and recipient bronchi, created unique challenges including ischemia of the donor bronchus the adverse effects of immunosuppression, donor lung preservation and diagnosis and management of post-transplant infection and rejection.