Aortopexy for the treatment of tracheomalacia in children: Review of the literature

Michele Torre, Marcello Carlucci, Simone Speggiorin, Martin J. Elliott

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Severe tracheomalacia presents a significant challenge for Paediatricians, Intensivists, Respiratory Physicians, Otolaryngologists and Paediatric Surgeons. The treatment of tracheomacia remains controversial, but aortopexy is considered by most to be one of the best options. We conducted a review of the English literature relating to aortopexy. Among 125 papers, 40 have been included in this review. Among 758 patients (62% males) affected with tracheomalacia, 581 underwent aortopexy. Associated co-morbidities were reported in 659 patients. The most frequent association was with oesophageal atresia (44%), vascular ring or large vessel anomalies (18%) and innominate artery compression (16%); in 9% tracheomalacia was idiopathic. The symptoms reported were various, but the most important indication for aortopexy was an acute life-threatening event (ALTE), observed in 43% of patients. The main preoperative investigation was bronchoscopy. Surgical approach was through a left anterior thoracotomy in 72% of patients, while median approach was chosen in 14% and in 1.3% a thoracoscopic aortopexy was performed. At follow-up (median 47 months) more than 80% of the patients improved significantly, but 8% showed no improvement, 4% had a worsening of their symptoms and 6% died. Complications were observed in 15% of patients, in 1% a redo aortopexy was deemed necessary. In our review, we found a lack of general consensus about symptom description and evaluation, indications for surgery, though ALTE and bronchoscopy were considered by all an absolute indication to aortopexy and the gold standard for the diagnosis of tracheomalacia, respectively. Differences were reported also in surgical approaches and technical details, so that the same term aortopexy was used to describe different types of procedures. Whatever approach or technique was used, the efficacy of aortopexy was reported as high in the majority of cases (more than 80%). A subgroup of patients particularly delicate is represented by those with associated gastro-esophageal reflux, in whom a fundoplication should be performed. Other treatments of tracheomalacia, particularly tracheal stenting, were associated with a higher rate of failure, severe morbidity and mortality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number62
JournalItalian Journal of Pediatrics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • ALTE
  • Aortopexy
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Gastro-oesophageal reflux
  • Oesophageal atresia
  • Sternotomy
  • Thoracoscopy
  • Thoracotomy
  • Tracheal stent
  • Tracheomalacia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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