Tracheal Stent Case Study



Tracheal collapse is common affliction of small breed dogs. For reasons that we do not know, the tracheal cartilage weakens and the trachea becomes narrowed. This can result in a variety of clinical signs including a honking cough, difficulty breathing, cyanosis (when the tongue and gums turn gray or blue due to lack of oxygen), and excessive panting. Anxiety or excitement can worsen these signs. Here is a drawing of what the trachea looks like when it is normal and when the trachea is collapsed.

This is what it looks like on fluoroscopy (real-time radiograph video). Look at the lighter gray tubular structure in the neck and how it opens and closes as this patient breathes:

Most patients with tracheal collapse can be managed with medications alone. These medications often include a steroid to decrease inflammation and irritation in the trachea, a cough suppressant to break the coughing cycle, and a bronchodilator to open up the lower airways if they are also affected.

Some dogs, even with medications, still have persistent clinical signs that affect their quality of life. Some dogs have mild signs but then develop an acute crisis where they cannot breathe at all and need emergency intervention.

Yoshi is a 2 year old Yorkshire Terrier who presented to us in severe respiratory distress from a collapsing trachea. Here is a video of Yoshi when he first presented to our hospital.

Because Yoshi was in such severe stress, he needed immediate intervention - management with medication alone was not an option. Yoshi had a tubular metal stent (see picture below) placed in his trachea that helped open his trachea so he could breathe again. The stent is placed under general anesthesia. It is placed into the trachea through the mouth so no surgery is needed.


Picture courtesy of Infiniti Medical LLC

Here is a video of the stent being released into Yoshi's trachea:

Here is a video of Yoshi a mere 12 hours after stent placement. He went home that same day.

Tracheal stenting can be a life-saving procedure for some dogs. The Interventional Radiology team is available 24 hours to place stents in case of an emergency. We are also available for consultation for non-emergent cases of tracheal collapse that would benefit from stenting. We are available by phone and e-mail for your veterinarian to further discuss the details of your pet's condition to see if he or she is a candidate for this procedure.