Our airway reconstruction team focuses on combining clinical care with research so that our patients have access to the latest advancements in treatment.

We have several ongoing research programs within our division that help us lead the way in healthcare delivery for patients with airway stenosis. Through basic science research, clinical research, translational research and outcomes research, our focus is on gaining knowledge through scientific findings to help us improve treatments.

We are dedicated to improving outcomes for patients with complex airway problems, including those patients with voice disorders. Some of our ongoing innovative work includes:

Exploring balloon dilation for treatment of subglottic stenosis

When a child has subglottic stenosis, the airway (larynx) narrows just below the vocal folds. Balloon dilation—opening up the airway with a balloon—is often part of the treatment for this condition. We’ve recently begun examining this treatment. Our aim is to better understand the impact of balloon size, number of dilations, and applications of medications. This research is starting to give us a view of what happens in acute stenosis injury. It also is helping us learn more about how to manage airway stenosis with less invasive means.

Learning more about managing patients with laryngeal clefts

This research focused on outcomes of children who had surgery for laryngeal cleft. The study revealed that outcomes were optimal when children were followed for at least 50 months from the time of surgery. This timeframe allows proper time for recognizing a post-surgical breakdown of the repair. This is the first study of its type to produce definitive results indicating how long laryngeal cleft patients should be followed clinically. We are now following our patients who have had laryngeal cleft surgery for at least that long.

Looking at slide tracheoplasty recovery in patients with a single lung

This research into recovery from slide tracheoplasty involved patients with a single lung or with an underdeveloped lung (pulmonary hypoplasia). Patients in this population had additional challenges while recovering as compared to patients with two lungs who underwent the same surgery. Results show that children with a single lung or hypoplastic lung in general have lengthier hospital stays, are intubated longer, and have a higher mortality rate. Because of this, we counsel families before performing a slide tracheoplasty in a child with a single lung, letting them know of these risks.

Studying trach tie closure materials

A tracheostomy tie is a band that goes around the neck and holds a tracheostomy tube in place. This research project explored flesh wounds near trach tie closures with the goal of decreasing these wounds. Two types of trach ties were studied. Results suggest several advantages to using Velcro closures. Due to these findings, we now use Velcro trach ties to support fewer flesh wounds in our patients.

Developing voicing biomarkers

A biomarker (short for biological marker) is a substance in the body that can indicate a normal or abnormal process, such as disease or infection. One of our research teams has a grant to develop voicing biomarkers for children before they undergo airway reconstruction. The goal of the study is to develop imaging tools that can help us predict voice outcome before we do surgery.