Tracheal stenosis is narrowing of the trachea, or "windpipe". Tracheal stenosis causes shortness of breath, which is made worse during exercise. Noisy breathing can be heard when tracheal stenosis is severe.
To diagnose tracheal stenosis the narrowed portion of the airway must be visualized. During bronchoscopy a flexible camera is passed into the airway.
A CT scan may also be used to evaluate the size of the airway and degree of narrowing as well.
Treatment for tracheal stenosis enlarges the size of the airway, thus making breathing easier. In the operating room bronchscopy is performed with the patient asleep. Sometimes a laser is used to cut the narrowed portion of the airway from the inside. A high pressure balloon dilator is then used to expand the size of the airway. Steroids and other medications are applied to prevent scar formation. This entire procedure is performed through the mouth.
When balloon dilation is inadequate, open resection can be performed. A skin cut is made on the neck and the stenotic airway is removed. The normal airway is then reattached and sutured together.