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Laryngoscope. 2009 Nov;119(11):2118-23. doi: 10.1002/lary.20700.

Tissue-engineered trachea for airway reconstruction.

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  • 1Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, University Hospitals Medical Center, University Hospitals of Cleveland, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.



Scaffold-free cartilage has been used to engineer biocompatible and mechanically stable neotracheas in vivo. The purpose of this animal study was to determine if neotracheal constructs, implanted paratracheally, could successfully be used for segmental tracheal reconstruction.


Animal study.


Culture-expanded auricular rabbit chondrocytes were used to engineer scaffold-free cartilage sheets. Cartilage and a strap muscle flap were wrapped around a tube and implanted paratracheally. At 12 to 14 weeks postimplantation neotracheas were used to reconstruct 20 mm tracheal defects. Surgical technique was modified several times in an attempt to decrease the amount of neotracheal obstruction and fibrosis. In one of the six rabbits, neotrachea with its intact strap muscle flap was dropped into the defect followed by an end-to-end anastomosis; in two animals the muscle flap was partially, and in one rabbit completely removed. In two animals the muscle flap was partially removed, the tube reinserted, and the construct reimplanted for 5 weeks to allow formation of a fibrous lining over the exposed cartilage followed by tracheal reconstruction.


All implants developed into vascularized and mechanically sound neotracheas. Following reconstruction, none of the animals showed immediate signs of respiratory distress; however, one died after 24 hours due to extensive endotracheal muscle flap edema, whereas rabbits who had undergone partial or complete muscle flap removal survived up to 39 days before developing cicatricial stenosis.


Tissue-engineered neotracheas proved to have excellent biocompatibility and stability to function under physiologic conditions, but lacked adequate endotracheal lining resulting in neotracheal stenosis.

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