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Hemodynamic Instability Following Airway Spray Cryotherapy

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Spray cryotherapy (SCT) of airway lesions is used to effectively palliate respiratory symptoms related to airway obstruction, but significant intraoperative hemodynamic complications have been noted. We reviewed the experience at a single institution using SCT for the treatment of obstructive airway tumors.


A retrospective review of a single institution experience with intraoperative and postoperative hemodynamic complications associated with SCT was performed. Descriptive statistics were performed.


Between June 2009 and April 2010, 34 treatment sessions were performed on 28 patients. Median age was 60 years (range, 15–88 years). Tumor characteristics were as follows: 13 primary lung cancers (43%), 11 pulmonary metastases (50%), 1 direct extension of an esophageal cancer (3%), and 2 benign pulmonary lesions (7%). Twenty-one tumors (75%) were distal to the carina; 14 (50%) were >95% occlusive. Median procedure length was 78 minutes (range, 15–176 minutes). Eleven sessions (31%) led to severe hypotension and/or bradycardia, with 2 patients requiring cardiopulmonary resuscitation. One patient died intraoperatively after cardiac arrest; a second patient was stable intraoperatively but died within 24 hours of SCT. Four patients required reintubation and short-term mechanical ventilation.


Unpredictable life-threatening hemodynamic instability can follow endobronchial SCT. We propose that the most likely cause is pulmonary venous gaseous emboli entering the right heart, the coronary arteries, and the systemic circulation. Although SCT may offer advantages over airway laser therapy (such as no risk of fire and rapid hemostasis), further study is needed to delineate the relative likelihood of therapeutic benefit versus catastrophic complications.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2016

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