BACKGROUND--Obstruction of a major airway by tumour causes serious morbidity. There is still scope for a widely applicable, simple and effective treatment to provide rapid palliation. METHODS--A fibreoptic bronchoscope prototype with an insulated inner sheath was used under local anaesthesia in 17 patients with locally advanced tracheobronchial malignancies. An insulated flexible electro-surgery probe was used to coagulate intraluminal tumour mass using standard electrosurgery equipment. RESULTS--Immediate reopening of the airway was obtained in 15 of the 17 patients. Two appeared to have extraluminal disease. Eleven patients had an obvious bronchoscopic response in whom a > 75% reopening of the normal airway diameter was achieved. Eight patients had subjective improvement of their dyspnoea, but only in four cases was there an objective improvement in physiological parameters. Haemoptysis resolved in four. There were no deaths resulting from treatment. Minor bleeding occurred in one patient and an aspiration pneumonia occurred in one. Three patients received additional treatment. CONCLUSIONS--Fibreoptic bronchoscopic electrosurgery is a simple technique for rapid palliation and immediate tumour debulking in patients with central tracheobronchial tumours. Further work is needed to compare its efficacy with other techniques.
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