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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 Chest Radiology, Interventional Radiology the Center for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation and the Mass General Cancer Center's Center for Thoracic Cancers multidisciplinary clinic.
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.
New patients undergo a comprehensive evaluation. We carefully review the recommended course of treatment with each patient and his or her 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. They are amongst the most experienced anesthesiologists in the country 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. Our floor nurses are well-trained and know 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.
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.
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:
Learn more about patients' experiences with the Airway/Tracheal Program at Mass General.
Accepting New Patients
Among the tracheal disorders we treat are various forms of stenosis (abnormal narrowing of the airway), including:
 Wang H, Wright CD, Wain JC, Ott HC, Mathisen DJ. Idiopathic subglottic stenosis: factors affecting outcome following single-stage repair. Ann Thorac Surg 2015;100:1804-11.
 Grillo HC, Donahue DM, Mathisen DJ, Wain JC, Wright DC. Postintubation tracheal stenosis. Treatment and results. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 1995;109:486-93.p>
Laryngotracheal Resection for Idiopathic Tracheal Stenosis
Laryngotracheal Resection for Idiopathic Subglottic Stenosis - 1
Laryngotracheal Resection for Idiopathic Subglottic Stenosis - 2
Laryngotracheal Resection for Subglottic Stenosis
On the following pages, you can view some actual airway/tracheal surgical images.
Airway/Tracheal Surgical Images
Perin was diagnosed with idiophathic subglottic stenosis (ISS) and the team in the Division of Thoracic Surgery at Mass General, helped bring her old life back.
Maria, a recent patient in the Division of Thoracic Surgery, talks about her tracheal surgery with Dr. Mathisen.
Brenda, a Massachusetts General Hospital patient, shares her story with idiopathic subglottic stenosis.
Division of Thoracic Surgery
Common patient airway and tracheal surgical images.
The surgeons in the Massachusetts General Hospital Airway and Tracheal Surgery Program have published numerous publications in nationally recognized journals.
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