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Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 2002 Apr;21(4):649-52.

Iatrogenic ruptures of the tracheobronchial tree.

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  • 1Department of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, E-Grube-Str. 40, 06097 Halle, Germany.



Iatrogenic tracheobronchial ruptures are seldom but severe complications after intubation or bronchoscopy. Therefore, we evaluated the reasons, the subsequent therapy and the outcome of patients with tracheal rupture, who were admitted to our hospital.


In a retrospective study we examined 19 patients (15 women, four men; 43-87 years) treated for acute tracheobronchial lesions. Eleven (58%) patients had a tracheobronchial rupture by single-lumen tube, four (21%) by double-lumen tube and two patients (10%) by tracheal cannula. A total of 47% of whom were carried out under emergency conditions. Two patients had a rupture due to a stiff bronchoscopy. Mean symptoms were mediastinal and subcutaneous emphysema. Two emergency collar incisions had been done.


The localization of ruptures was in all cases in the paries membranaceus, length: 1-7 cm (mean: 4.8 cm). The interval between the onset of symptoms and the diagnose differed widely (up to 72 h), nine (47%) diagnoses were made during intubation/bronchoscopy. One patient, with a small tear (1 cm) was treated conservatively with fibrin-glue. The other 18 patients had surgical repair through a thoracotomy. The postoperative mortality was determined with 42%, which was not dependent on the rupture but basically by the underlying diseases requiring intubation.


Iatrogenic tracheal rupture is a dangerous complication with potentially high postoperative mortality, mostly influenced by the underlying disease. Early surgical repair must be the preferred treatment.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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