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Table of Contents
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 31  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 285-287

Surgical partial removal of papillomatosis for endotracheal intubation as an alternative to tracheostomy for an "almost completely" occluded airway

1 Department of Anesthesiology, Hunan Children's Hospital, Changsha, Hunan, P.R. China
2 Department of Otolaryngology, Hunan Children's Hospital, Changsha, Hunan, P.R. China
3 Department of Anesthesiology, Tulane University Medical Center, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Date of Web Publication16-Apr-2015

Correspondence Address:
Yiru Tong
Department of Anesthesiology, Hunan Children's Hospital, 86 Ziyuan Road, Changsha, Hunan 410007
P.R. China
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0970-9185.155220

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How to cite this article:
Tong Y, Zhang X, Du Z, Xiao T, Li Y, Liu H. Surgical partial removal of papillomatosis for endotracheal intubation as an alternative to tracheostomy for an "almost completely" occluded airway. J Anaesthesiol Clin Pharmacol 2015;31:285-7

How to cite this URL:
Tong Y, Zhang X, Du Z, Xiao T, Li Y, Liu H. Surgical partial removal of papillomatosis for endotracheal intubation as an alternative to tracheostomy for an "almost completely" occluded airway. J Anaesthesiol Clin Pharmacol [serial online] 2015 [cited 2020 Jun 3];31:285-7. Available from:

To the Editor,

Recurrent papillomatosis due to human papilloma virus infection can occur in multiple organs and systems. [1] Juvenile recurrent laryngeal papillomatosis is one of the most life-threatening diseases due to it's potential for airway obstruction and ventilatory compromise. When these patients are scheduled for surgery, ventilation and intubation can pose serious challenges for anesthesiologists. We report an alternative rescue strategy to tracheostomy to deal with the papillomatosis-induced occluded airway by surgically removing partial papillomatosis tissue and creating an opening for endotracheal intubation.

A 10-month-old girl, with a history of laryngeal papillomatosis and previous surgical removal, was scheduled for surgical removal of papillomatosis due to recurrent tumor-induced increasing hoarseness and wheezing. Preoperative fiberoscopic inspection indicated possible complete glottic obstruction [Figure 1]. Possible intraoperative tracheostomy was preoperatively discussed with surgery team. Intraoperatively, general anesthesia was induced with 5% sevoflurane. The intubating anesthesiologist immediately realized the patient's glottis was completely filled with papillomatous masses and no glottic opening could be identified for endotracheal intubation. After two attempts, the anesthesiologists and surgeons decided to remove some papillomatous mass to create a small hole for intubation. At this time, the patient's spontaneous breath became increasingly more obstructive, pulse oximetry (SpO 2 ) started declining under the positive pressure assisted ventilation. Surgeons immediately proceeded to direct laryngoscopy [Figure 2], and removed a portion of the massive papillomatosis tissue. A small hole was created and endotracheal intubation with #3 tube was accomplished [Figure 3]. The whole process lasted <2 min. Bleeding was minimal to affect the surgeon's visualization. The patient's heart rate did not decline even at the lowest SpO 2 reading of 70%. After intubation, her SpO 2 quickly returned to 100%. Complete removal of papillomatosis was achieved as scheduled. General anesthesia was maintained with 3% sevoflurane. Intravenous methylprednisolone 40 mg was given to alleviate potential airway edema. The patient was kept intubated and transferred to intensive care unit at the end of the procedure. Her trachea was extubated next morning without respiratory compromise. The patient fully recovered and discharged in good condition. Monthly follow-up for 6 months after discharge did not identify any complications from either surgery or anesthesia.
Figure 1: Preoperative fiberoscopic inspection

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Figure 2: Image from direct laryngoscopy before intubation

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Figure 3: Successful intubation after partial papillomatous tissue removal

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Anesthesia for patients with massive laryngeal papillomatosis can be very challenging due to the possibility of developing complete airway obstruction during induction and intubation, especially in the pediatric population due to their smaller opening of glottis and trachea. Laryngeal papillomatosis which occurs at or before 2 years of age is associated with frequent and severe upper airway problems. [2] Some patients often require tracheostomy at some point during the treatment process. Sharing of the airway passage with surgical sites during surgical manipulation poses particular challenges, especially in children. [2] During the process of induction and intubation, patients with papillomatosis may evolve into "can't intubate, can't ventilate" situation very quickly. [3] Thorough review of patient's history and preoperative airway, assessment is critically important in providing safe anesthesia care. Our patient had a fibrotic laryngoscopy preoperatively [Figure 1], which showed the glottis was almost completely occluded, though the patient did not have significant dyspnea. Alternative airway strategies including surgical airway should be readily accessible when inducing general anesthesia. Inhalational induction of general anesthesia, especially with sevoflurane is preferred to intravenous induction. [4] Management of "can't intubate, can't ventilate" situation due to completely occluded glottis is usually tracheostomy or cricothyrotomy. Cricothyrotomy is commonly used to provide a rescue airway, the incision site is higher than that of tracheostomy, and it is not used as frequently as tracheostomy during the papillomatosis operation. Tracheostomy may potentially induce the development of tracheal papillomatosis. Orji et al. reported tracheobronchial spread of papillomatosis occurred in a patient with prolonged tracheostomy. [5] Thus, tracheostomy may not be ideal for the therapy and rehabilitation of recurrent papillomatosis.

Our approach was different. By removing partial papillomatous masses surgically we created a "hole" for endotracheal tube insertion. The papillomatous masses occluding glottis were visualized under laryngoscopy and easily removable. A legitimate argument would be that this approach might potentially lose the critical time for other life-saving maneuver(s). However, if part of the papillomatous mass can easily be removed by experienced surgeon(s), our approach does offer another option in the management of the airway for this kind of situation. It is significantly less-invasive to the laryngeal/tracheal anatomical structure, and mucous membrane maintains contact, minimizing the risk of laryngeal papillomatous spread and tumor implanting in/near this incision.

  References Top

Fan Q, Tay SK, Shen K. Loop electrosurgical excision procedure: A valuable method for the treatment of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia. Zhonghua Fu Chan Ke Za Zhi 2001;36:271-4.  Back to cited text no. 1
Forestner JE, McGraw SA, Norman PF. Laryngeal papillomatosis: Anesthetic management. South Med J 1979;72:1107-12.  Back to cited text no. 2
Curtis R, Lomax S, Patel B. Use of sugammadex in a 'can't intubate, can't ventilate' situation. Br J Anaesth 2012;108:612-4.  Back to cited text no. 3
Xue FS, Yuan YJ, Wang Q, Liu JH, Liao X. Comments on "Propofol versus sevoflurane for fiberoptic intubation under spontaneous breathing anesthesia in patients difficult to intubate". Minerva Anestesiol 2011;77:470-1.  Back to cited text no. 4
Orji FT, Okorafor IA, Akpeh JO. Experience with recurrent respiratory papillomatosis in a developing country: Impact of tracheostomy. World J Surg 2013;37:339-43.  Back to cited text no. 5


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3]


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