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UAB performs state’s first robotic-assisted tracheobronchoplasty

  • October 27, 2021
This procedure is the first of its kind in Alabama and offers a minimally invasive treatment option for patients with tracheobronchomalacia.

3D Illustration Concept of Human Respiratory System Lungs AnatomyThis procedure is the first of its kind in Alabama and offers a minimally invasive treatment option for patients with tracheobronchomalacia.Experts from the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery performed the state’s first robotic-assisted tracheobronchoplasty, a complex operation used to reshape a patient’s central airways to help improve their ability to breathe. This procedure is used to treat tracheobronchomalacia, a rare but progressive and debilitating disease where the airway collapses on itself due to weakened tissue and abnormal shape of the airway.

A TBP involves suturing mesh to the outside of a patient’s trachea through a series of intricate knots. This opens the collapsed tissue in the wall of the trachea to create an opening for air. 

TBPs are historically done through a thoracotomy, an open surgery that includes a large incision on the patient’s side. Compared to a robotic-assisted TBP, thoracotomies can be more painful with longer recovery times. Now, Benjamin Wei, M.D., associate professor in the UAB Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine, and team are able to offer this minimally invasive treatment option for patients with TBM. 

“A robotic-assisted tracheobronchoplasty offers patients a safe, minimally invasive intervention that has great outcomes with low morbidity and mortality,” Wei said. “It is significantly harder to recover from a thoracotomy compared to robotic incisions. With this procedure, patients are discharged sooner and can return to normal activities much faster. We are really excited to bring this new treatment option to our patients at UAB.” 

The robotic procedure also allows surgeons to have better visualization of the trachea during the procedure and simplifies their ability to place sutures in tight spaces. 

“Tracheobronchomalacia is an underdiagnosed disease for which few patients receive appropriate treatment,” Wei said. “The robotic tracheobronchoplasty means more patients can undergo this procedure safely and have better recovery and outcome.”

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