Airway/Tracheal Program

The Airway/Tracheal Program in Mass General's Division of Thoracic Surgery treats a wide range of airway and tracheal conditions.

  • Phone: 617-726-6826

The Airway/Tracheal Surgery Program at Massachusetts General Hospital provides specialized treatments for both common and rare disorders of the trachea, offering state-of-the-art evaluation, diagnosis and care.

What to Expect

A leader in treating tracheal disorders, our program attracts patients from around the world.

Patients may be referred to us by physicians treating an underlying condition that has created the airway/tracheal issue, such as cancer or an airway obstruction caused by benign disease. We offer surgical options for patients with airway obstructions caused by benign disease or as a side effect of treatment for cancer.

New patients undergo a comprehensive evaluation, including a detailed medical history and physical examination. Tests include simple X-rays taken either at Mass General or at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

We carefully review the recommended course of treatment with each patient. If the patient elects to undergo the procedure, we explain each step, using diagrams and illustrations. In the operating room, while the patient is under general anesthesia, we examine the airway (trachea and bronchi) using a bronchoscope, a thin, tube-like imaging instrument.

After surgery, the surgeon reviews the timeline for recovery and course of medication with the patient and family. If the surgery is conducted because of an underlying condition (e.g. cancer), we confer with the patient's physician to establish an ongoing plan of care. Our team of thoracic surgeons collaborates closely with Mass General colleagues in the Mass General Center for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation and participate in the Mass General Cancer Center’s Thoracic Oncology Clinic.

Evolutionary Research Approach

Many of the procedures used worldwide in treating tracheal disorders were developed at Mass General by our program founder, renowned thoracic surgeon Hermes Grillo, MD. The division is currently led by thoracic surgeon Douglas Mathisen, MD, who strives to preserve Dr. Grillo's pioneering spirit. Recent innovative efforts include:

Research:

  • Initiatives to isolate the causes of idiopathic subglottal stenosis, a rare inflammatory disorder with unknown cause
  • Research into possible tracheal substitutes
  • Development of a molecular laboratory to study adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare tracheal tumor
  • Creation of a tracheal surgery database to study outcomes and prognosis of patients with airway problems with the goal of improving patient outcomes

Education:

  • Continued promotion of our postgraduate clinical and research program (founded in 1970)
  • A surgical visitor program to share knowledge with surgeons from other institutions

Airway/Tracheal Surgery Specialties

The Airway/Tracheal Surgery Service at Massachusetts General Hospital provides specialized treatments for both common and rare disorders of the trachea, offering state-of-the-art evaluation, diagnosis and care.

Our program is known for its experienced staff, innovative surgical methods and quality of care. We use a variety of techniques, including tracheal reconstruction, to preserve the airway (trachea and bronchi) and voice.

Among the tracheal disorders we treat are various forms of stenosis (abnormal narrowing of the airway), including:

We also treat:

A Legacy of Innovation

Many procedures used in treating tracheal disorders carry the imprint of Mass General surgeon Hermes Grillo, MD, known as "the father of airway surgery." In the 1960s, Dr. Grillo invented novel techniques of tracheal reconstruction that allowed patients with previously untreatable conditions to undergo surgery. Today, we use Mass General's talent and technology to continually refine our techniques. One example involves development of a method to correct problems arising from idiopathic subglottic stenosis, a rare inflammatory disorder. We have seen much success with this single-stage surgical procedure.

The Strength of Experience

The evolution of our surgical approaches — along with our excellent outcomes — are due largely to the high volume of operations we perform.

Our team of thoracic surgeons collaborates closely with Mass General specialists in the Mass General Center for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation and participates in the Mass General Cancer Center’s Thoracic Oncology Clinic. A research and teaching facility, we are dedicated to advancing knowledge of tracheobronchial disease and producing the next generation of thoracic surgeons skilled at managing airway conditions.

Division of Thoracic Surgery

55 Fruit Street
Blake 1570
Boston, MA 02114

Phone: 617-726-6826

Next Steps:

  • Phone: 617-726-6826