In our patients with tumour affecting the trachea or carina elective surgery was carried out after endoscopic laser treatment. Laser treatment was performed as an emergency procedure in three of the patients, who presented with impending asphyxia; the improvement provided time in which to assess the disease, withdraw corticosteroids, and treat infection. The fourth patient was treated with the laser for life threatening haemoptysis, but further bleeding made it necessary to tamponade the tumour with a cuffed endotracheal tube for 24 hours. Elective resections of the trachea (three cases) and carina (one case) were performed successfully four to eight weeks after laser treatment. Frozen sections of the resection margins were clear in all cases and paraffin sections subsequently confirmed the localised nature of the lesions. All patients are alive and well with no evidence of tumour recurrence after 18 months to 4 years. Laser therapy appears to be an ideal preoperative treatment for patients with impending asphyxia but it may be of limited value in controlling very brisk haemorrhage.
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