Infections causing central airway obstruction: role of bronchoscopy in diagnosis and management

Sevak Keshishyan, Lawrence DeLorenzo, Kassem Hammoud, Arpine Avagyan, Hussein Assallum, Kassem Harris


Central airway obstructive infections (CAOI) are challenging medical conditions that may represent an advanced and complicated process of ongoing infections. The epidemiology of CAOI is unknown as well as the pathophysiology and the mechanism of development. This is due to sparse data in the literature that consists mainly of case reports and retrospective case series. CAOI can be caused by fungal, bacterial, parasitic and viral infections. Most patients with CAOI can be diagnosed clinically and with chest imaging, which demonstrate obstruction of the central airways. However, bronchoscopy is commonly used to confirm and obtain a specific diagnosis to guide specific therapy. In recent years, interventional pulmonology (IP) is becoming widely available and offer a minimally invasive approach for the management of central airway diseases such as cancers, benign strictures, and other conditions. Various bronchoscopic modalities are used to treat central airway obstruction (CAO), such as mechanical debulking, endobronchial laser therapy, electrocautery, argon plasma coagulation, cryotherapy, and airway stenting. In patients with CAOI, the role of therapeutic bronchoscopy is not clearly defined, but many isolated reports in the literature described bronchoscopic intervention in combination with medical therapy as the initial management approach. In this paper, we present cases of CAOI that underwent bronchoscopic intervention as part of their management. We described the infectious etiology, locations, bronchoscopic findings and bronchoscopic modalities for airway management.