Background: Tracheal cartilage deformities due to trauma, prolonged endotracheal intubation or infection are difficult to correct. Current treatment options such as dilation, laser ablation, stent placement, and segmental resection are only temporary or carry significant risks. The objectives of this project were to design and test a laser activated endotracheal stent system that can actively modify the geometry of tracheal cartilage, leading to permanent retention of a new and desirable tracheal geometry.
Methods: Ex vivo rabbit tracheal cartilage (simulating human neonate trachea) were irradiated with an Er: Glass laser, (λ= 1.54um, 0.5W-2.5W, 1 sec to 5 sec). Shape change and gross thermal injury were assessed visually to determine the best laser power parameters for reshaping. A rigid endoscopic telescope and hollow bronchoscope were used to record endoscopic images. The stent was constructed from nitinol wire, shaped into a zigzag configuration. An ex vivo testing apparatus was also constructed.
Results: The best laser power parameter to produce shape change was 1 W for 6-7 seconds. At this setting, there was significant shape change with only minimal thermal injury to the tracheal mucosa, as assessed by visual inspection. The bronchoscopy system functioned adequately during testing in the ex vivo testing apparatus.
Conclusion: We have successfully designed instrumentation and created the capability to endoscopically reshape tracheal cartilage in an ex vivo rabbit model. The results obtained in ex vivo tracheal cartilage indicated that reshaping using Er: Glass laser can be accomplished.