Endoscopically placed airway stents offer a viable option in primary or adjunctive treatment of severe pediatric tracheobronchial stenoses. Optimistic clinical reports substantiate the need for experimental studies to more effectively evaluate their clinical role. Development of an animal model comparable with the pediatric airway, amenable to endoscopic instrumentation, and capable of assessing effect on growth was the purpose of this pilot project. Nine 4-week-old piglets underwent endoscopic midtracheal placement of the balloon-expandable Palmaz metallic stent. Initial expansion and stent position were verified fluoroscopically and by direct videobronchoscopy. Serial endoscopic examination and stent reexpansion were performed 2 and 4 weeks after stent insertion. Animal weight, clinical tolerance, tracheal growth, and stent integrity were observed. Tracheal inflammation was evaluated grossly and by objective histopathologic criteria. Successful endotracheal stent placement and expansion were accomplished in all piglets. One pig died of anesthesia complications less than 24 hours after stent insertion. The remaining pigs exhibited excellent clinical tolerance through experiment completion. No detrimental effect on growth was noted, and effective dilatation of the stented tracheal region was observed. Stent incorporation was evident with significant mucosal ingrowth. Inflammation in the form of nonobstructing granulation tissue was present, and no evidence of necrosis or cartilage invasion was evident. The piglet trachea appears to be an excellent model for evaluation of expandable metallic airway stents in management of congenital and acquired tracheobronchial stenoses.
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