Surgical approaches to aortopexy for severe tracheomalacia

Russell W Jennings, Thomas E Hamilton, C Jason Smithers, Monawat Ngerncham, Neil Feins, John E Foker
Journal of Pediatric Surgery 2014, 49 (1): 66-70; discussion 70-1

PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to determine the outcomes among three different surgical approaches for performing an aortopexy to treat severe tracheomalacia (STM).

METHODS: A retrospective review was performed for all patients who underwent an aortopexy by pediatric surgeons at a single institution during 1997-2012. Data collected included details of the operative approaches and clinical results. The data were analyzed using Chi-square and Fisher exact test.

RESULTS: Forty-one patients underwent an aortopexy. The operation was chosen by the surgeon and not randomized. Exposure was by partial sternotomy (PS) (20), open thoracotomy (12), or thoracoscopic approach (7). Only the PS approach was done by a single team. All groups showed improvement in work of breathing, prevention of severe respiratory distress, and acute life threatening events. These effects were more dramatic for the PS group, especially regarding oxygen and/or ventilator dependence and the ability to undergo tracheostomy decannulation. Among the sixteen patients with failure-to-thrive before successful aortopexy by any technique, ten demonstrated significant improvement in their growth (p=0.025). The recurrence rate for the thoracoscopic approach was 38%, and there were no recurrences in the partial sternotomy and the thoracotomy groups, 38% vs 0% vs 0%, p=0.005. Simultaneous bronchoscopy was utilized more commonly in the PS group compared to the thoracotomy and thoracoscopic group, 95% vs 62% vs 38%.

CONCLUSIONS: In this series, the partial sternotomy technique had the most reliable resolution of symptoms and no recurrence requiring reoperation. The PS approach to STM has the technical advantages of an improved exposure with equal access to the vessels over the right and left mainstem bronchi, as well as the trachea and a more specific elevation of the arteries, including suspension of the pulmonary arteries and trachea itself when desirable. Simultaneous bronchoscopy during aortopexy and an experienced team also likely contribute to improved outcomes. The variations in populations, follow-up, and use of continuous intraoperative bronchoscopy, however, make firm conclusions difficult.

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