Tracheal stenosis, including subglottic stenosis, is a narrowing of the trachea that causes breathing problems. It can develop when scar tissue forms in a person’s trachea due to prolonged intubation — when a breathing tube is inserted into the trachea to help maintain breathing during a medical procedure — or from a tracheostomy, which is a surgery to create an opening in the neck to access the trachea. Our physicians will typically address any underlying medical conditions before treating the stenosis.
If the stenosis itself requires treatment, our physicians typically perform surgery. The type of procedure depends on the exact location and extent of the stenosis.
The most common treatment options for tracheal stenosis include:
- Tracheal Resection and Reconstruction — During a tracheal resection, our surgeons remove the constricted section of the trachea and then rejoin the upper and lower sections. This is usually a very successful treatment for stenosis, with excellent long-term results.
- Bronchoscopic Tracheal Dilation — Widening of the trachea, either with a balloon or surgical instruments called tracheal dilators, provides temporary relief of symptoms and allows our experts to determine how much of the trachea is affected by the stenosis. During the dilation procedure, we can also diagnose the cause of the stenosis if it is not already known.
- Laser Bronchoscopy — In some cases, our surgeons use lasers to remove the scar tissue that is causing the stenosis. Laser surgery offers good short-term results and provides temporary relief, but is usually not a long-term solution. In some situations, laser surgery can actually worsen the stenosis. For those reasons, it is important to consider the underlying disorder before using laser surgery to treat tracheal stenosis.
- Tracheobronchial Airway Stent — A tracheal stent is a tube made out of metal or silicone that is placed in the airway to help keep it open. Stents are used as both short- and long-term treatments for stenosis.