Prevention and management of complications following tracheal resections—lessons learned at the Massachusetts General Hospital
Tracheal surgery has developed and evolved over the last 50 years, becoming an integral part of the clinical practice of modern thoracic surgeons. Today, surgeons can safely and effectively operate on most patients suffering from post-intubation tracheal stenosis, tracheal tumors and other pathologies that result in an abnormal shape and function of the central airways. The Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston witnessed first-hand the birth and growth of tracheal surgery under Dr. Hermes Grillo, becoming a reference center and accumulating one of the largest institutional experiences in the world. This vast experience of the management of patients with tracheal pathologies has allowed our group at MGH to refine the care of these patients, including their judicious preoperative evaluation, meticulous surgical treatment, and dedicated postoperative care. However, this experience has also provided valuable lessons on the potential complications that can arise after tracheal surgery. Here, we attempt to accumulate our institutional knowledge and experience to provide a summary of the key aspects to prevent complications following tracheal resections. Unfortunately, complications can occur despite strict adherence to the core principles of tracheal surgery, and therefore, we also highlight our institutional experience with the early recognition and management of the most common and dreaded complications.