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Curing a Rare Airway Disorder

Dr. Charles Bakhos, curing a rare airway disorder

Imagine feeling like you’re unable to exhale or choking on your breath, for weeks, months or even years. Now imagine that you visit doctor after doctor for help, but none of the diagnoses you receive (asthma, emphysema, respiratory tract infection) or treatments you try (inhalers, steroids, antibiotics) seem to make the problem go away. Where do you go?

Adult patients who are suffering from tracheobronchomalacia (TBM) — a collapse of the windpipe and bronchial tubes — can find expertise at Temple, a destination center for this rare condition. Charles Bakhos, MD, one of the nation’s experts in diagnosing and treating this tricky condition, is right at the Temple Lung Center in Philadelphia, bringing new hope to people seeking relief from TBM. He’s one of a few physicians in the entire country who can diagnose and treat TBM.

The condition is marked by the collapse of the cartilage or smooth muscle in the trachea and bronchi, the main passageways of the lungs. Patients with TBM have trouble exhaling, chronic coughing fits, mucus buildup and recurrent respiratory infections. Because many of these symptoms occur in other diseases and disorders, TBM is often under recognized, with patients frequently misdiagnosed, and as a result, ineffectively treated. This is when patients from across the country seek the expertise of the Temple Lung Center.

Experience and Expertise Lead to Diagnosis

Key to the diagnosis is a multidisciplinary approach. The interventional pulmonologist (IP) performs a flexible bronchoscopy that shows the location and degree of airway collapse. This is usually confirmed by Radiology using a special technique to perform a dynamic CT scan of the chest. The multidisciplinary team taking care of TBM patients at Temple can also involve gastroenterologists, speech therapists, ENT specialists and more.

For many patients, medication, airway stenting or CPAP treatment are enough to provide relief. But the most severe cases require an advanced procedure called tracheobronchoplasty, which involves placement of a mesh to reinforce the back wall of the airway and prevent collapse. This procedure addresses the primary effects of TBM, thereby allowing clinicians to mitigate any additional airway issues.

High-End Treatment That Restores Lives

When performed in the right patients by skilled surgeons, tracheobronchoplasty can cure TBM. For many patients, their symptoms are alleviated vastly, improving their quality of life. Temple is the only hospital in Philadelphia performing this procedure robotically, which reduces postoperative pain and helps patients get home from the hospital sooner. And Temple sees more TBM patients than any other hospital between New York City and Washington, DC. Helping more patients find treatment they never thought possible.

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