Internal Medicine

Stent placement for tracheal collapse

FACT SHEETS: Stent placement for tracheal collapse

Tracheal collapse is a common cause of cough in dogs. The condition results from decreased strength within the cartilage of the large airway, and it may affect the trachea in the neck region or within the chest. Treatment of tracheal collapse centers on control of secondary problems such as obesity, infection or chronic bronchitis. When medical treatment fails, surgery may be recommended to stabilize the trachea in the neck region, or stent placement may be discussed when collapse occurs within the chest. Use of these stents in dogs with severe and intractable cough or respiratory distress can result in a reduction in cough. Once in place, the stent can rarely be removed, and it is critical that stents are used only in appropriate cases.

Evaluation of a dog for tracheal stent placement starts with a full work-up for airway disease. We assess overall health status, perform blood tests, x-rays, and proceed with anesthesia for bronchoscopy to determine the degree and location of airway collapse, the presence of concurrent upper airway disease, and to detect infectious or inflammatory lower airway disease that requires treatment prior to stent placement. At that time, we can perform specialized measurements to determine the appropriate length and diameter for the stent. At that point, the appropriately sized stent can be ordered.

Placement of the stent requires a second anesthesia. Post-procedure radiographs are performed, and dogs are hospitalized for a variable time to ensure appropriate recovery. Post-operative care includes heavy sedation, cough suppressants, and antibiotics. Oxygen therapy may be needed in some cases.

Stents can successfully control debilitating signs associated with tracheal collapse but are not without risk. Careful case selection is critical to success.