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About the Airway and Tracheal Program

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

Our team of highly skilled thoracic surgeons use a variety of techniques, including tracheal reconstruction, to restore proper function of the airway (trachea and bronchi), and voice. We work closely with specialists in:

Patients may be referred to us by physicians treating an underlying condition that has created the airway/tracheal issue, such as cancer or obstruction caused by benign disease. Patients can contact individual thoracic surgeons to inquire about treatment options. We offer surgical options for patients with airway obstructions from benign blockages (strictures) or tumors.

Superb Surgical Results

Our high volume of surgery for airway and tracheal conditions - and skilled team of surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, physical therapists and speech therapists - help us to attain excellent results in treating patients with complex conditions. Our team will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan.

Innovative Research Approach

As a research and teaching facility, Mass General is dedicated to advancing knowledge of tracheobronchial disease and producing the next generation of thoracic surgeons skilled at managing airway conditions. 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 and 1970s, Dr. Grillo invented novel techniques of tracheal reconstruction that allowed patients with previously untreatable conditions to undergo surgery. This tradition has been carried on by the current group of Mass General thoracic surgeons.

Recent innovative efforts include:

  • Creation of a tracheal surgery database to study outcomes and prognosis of patients with airway problems with the goal of improving patient outcomes
  • Developing novel techniques to replace damaged organs, including airway and lung, via the Regenerative Medicine Laboratory (Ott Laboratory)
  • Initiatives to identify the causes of idiopathic subglottal stenosis, a rare inflammatory disorder of unknown cause predominantly found in women
  • Research into possible tracheal substitutes involving regenerative medicine and stem cells
  • Using Bioprostheses, implanted devices, to solve very complicated problems of the airway and esophagus for which no other solutions exist

Patient Care

New patients undergo a comprehensive evaluation. We carefully review the recommended course of treatment with each patient and family. If the patient elects to undergo a procedure, we explain each step, using diagrams and illustrations. Our chest radiologists have cutting-edge equipment and are amongst the leaders nationally in the field. Careful collaboration with our anesthesiology, radiologic, pulmonary and voice specialists ensure the best possible treatment and outcomes. Complex airway problems require sophisticated x-ray evaluation.

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 for precise evaluation and measurements.

Anesthesiologists play a critical role in the management of patients with airway problems. We have a very skilled group with whom we have worked for many years and are amongst the most experienced nationwide in dealing with airway management. The intensive care team sees patients with airway surgery on a weekly basis. The nurses and doctors play a critical role in the care of these complicated patients and our floor nurses are well-trained on how to help patients recover from surgery.

After surgery, the surgeon reviews the procedure recovery and course of treatment with the patient and family. Each patient has a plan to follow to ensure the best outcomes. Plans and results are communicated to referring physicians so that everyone is on the same page.

Publications

The surgeons in the Mass General Airway and Tracheal Surgery Program have numerous publications in nationally recognized journals, including: