We recently had a comment on a previous post about the stents used in repairing tracheal collapse (Repairing a tracheal collapse in dogs) so I asked Dr Jeff Solomon of Infiniti Medical about these stents and what they are used for and this was his response.
There seems to be a bit of confusion here regarding tracheal stents… There are two very different types of stents used to tracheal collapse.
The plastic type referred to above are more commonly known as “tracheal rings”. These are secured to the trachea by means of an open surgical procedure that exposes the cervical trachea (the portion of the trachea in the neck). An experienced surgeon performs this procedure. A potential complication is laryngeal paralysis due to the proximity of the recurrent laryngeal nerve to the portion of the trachea that is exposed. Because of the need to expose the trachea, this treatment is limited to collapse of the cervical trachea and cannot be performed for collapse that extends into the trachea after it enters the chest (thoracic trachea). Since this is an open surgical procedure, it can be risky in dogs with severe respiratory or concomitant cardiac disease.
The second type of stent is made of a shape memory alloy (metal) called nitinol. These stents are similar to the ones used in humans with the exception that they have been specifically engineered to treat tracheal collapse in dogs. These stents work by providing additional support from within the trachea. Therefore surgery is not necessary. Instead, the stents are loaded onto a delivery system that is advanced into the trachea under x-ray or bronochoscopic visualization. Once the stent is in the correct location, it is deployed and the delivery system is removed. The entire procedure can be performed in a matter of minutes. Because the stent is placed from inside, the region of the trachea inside the chest can be treated in addition to the cervical region. Because this is a minimally invasive procedure, it can be performed on animals with advanced disease more easily and complications related to the procedure are less common. There is no surgery required and therefore an internist or surgeon can perform this procedure. Although these stents are more expensive than the simple plastic ones, their ease of use and simplicity may reduce the overall cost of care. The development of this simple and elegant procedure has dramatically expanded the availability of treatment options for dogs suffering from tracheal collapse.
Thank you to Dr. Solomon for clearing that up. If you have other questions about tracheal stents or the non-invasive procedures, let me know and I'll have him post some more information.