Objectives: Successful laryngotracheal reconstruction requires both structurally supported tissue that withstands airway pressure changes and well-vascularized epithelial lining to prevent granulation and stricture formation. For circumferential defects, end-to-end anastomosis achieves favorable results, but for long-segment or large noncircumferential defects, no proven methods have emerged. Several animal studies describe prefabricated soft tissue flaps wrapped around synthetic materials or cartilage. However, prefabricated flaps have had very little use in human airway reconstruction. We present a patient with laryngeal stenosis and tracheostomy dependence following chemoradiotherapy for hypopharyngeal carcinoma. Methods: In an attempt to widen the patient's laryngeal airway, a thyrotracheal autograft procedure, previously described by our institution, was performed. We transferred a segment of hemitrachea cephalad using the thyroid gland as a "vascular carrier," thus creating an 8-cm-long trough inferiorly that involved a 40% defect of the anterior tracheal circumference. Severe radiation damage to the cervical skin precluded use of traditional tracheoplasty methods. We used a technique whereby costal cartilage strips were implanted into a radial forearm free flap, designed to replicate the anterior tracheal wall. Results: Four weeks later, we harvested the prefabricated composite flap and placed it into the defect, using forearm skin as tracheal lining. The cervical skin defect was closed with an island deltopectoral flap. A soft stent was kept in the neotrachea for 3 weeks, and a tracheostomy tube was left beneath it. The tracheostomy was subsequently closed with local advancement flaps, and the patient currently maintains an excellent airway. Conclusions: Prefabricated composite free flaps are an attractive option for certain challenging cases of airway reconstruction.
- Airway reconstruction
- Prefabricated composite free flap
- Tracheal reconstruction