Experience with bioresorbable splints for treatment of airway collapse in a pediatric population

Ali Kamran, Charles J. Smithers, Christopher W. Baird, Russell W. Jennings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To report our experience with novel external tracheal and bronchial placed bioresorbable splints in children with severe symptomatic airway collapse. Methods: Retrospective review of patients undergoing bioresorbable splint placement. Results: Between July 2018 and February 2020, 14 patients received 16 external splints (trachea, n = 8; left bronchus, n = 7; and right bronchus, n = 1). Preoperatively, 7 patients had a tracheostomy; 6 of them were receiving mechanical ventilation with ventilator settings so high that they required an inpatient setting, often in an intensive care unit. Median age at implant was 14.5 months (range, 2 months-14 years). Splints were formed from moldable bioresorbable plates (RapidSorb; Synthes, Oberdorf, Switzerland) and were customized intraoperatively around a Hegar dilator. A series of Prolene sutures were placed through into the airway cartilage under simultaneous bronchoscopic and direct visualization and then tied securing the airway within the splint. Concomitant procedures were also performed in the region of the airway splints, consisting of airway reconstruction, cardiovascular procedures, and/or esophageal rotation (related to posterior tracheopexy). Median follow-up was 20 months (interquartile range, 12-21 months). Four patients required no further intervention. Although not necessarily in the splinted region, 7 patients required additional procedures, including posterior tracheobronchopexy (n = 2), temporary tracheal stent placement (n = 1), tracheal resection with end-to-end anastomosis (n = 1), closure tracheostomy (n = 1), and tracheostomy placement (n = 2). One patient required splint replacement and in 1 patient, the splint was removed later. All patients (except 2 deaths from unrelated causes) were discharged home. Three patients required mechanical ventilation at lower settings that allowed home ventilation (1 of those only at night), and 4 patients required tracheostomy collar. Indications for tracheostomy included subglottic stenosis, vocal cord paralysis, pulmonary insufficiency, small airway malacia, and laryngomalacia. Conclusions: An external bioresorbable splint can provide temporary external support while allowing the age-proportional growth of the airway. We applied readily available bioresorbable plates that were custom-molded based on the location, shape, and length of the collapsing airway in selected patients presenting with severe tracheobronchomalacia from loss of structural support and/or cartilage deformation. Further study that includes long-term outcomes are necessary to define the best role for these external splints as part of comprehensive airway management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-169
Number of pages10
JournalJTCVS Techniques
StatePublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • airway collapse
  • bioresorbable splint
  • external airway splinting
  • tracheobronchomalacia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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