Tracheal Rupture: Airway Catastrophe Associated with Intubation

Disruption of the trachea following intubation is an uncommon but potentially fatal condition. The incidence is difficult to establish because many tracheal lacerations may be undetected clinically. Some patients present acutely with subcutaneous emphysema or may develop it only after several hours. Signs of tracheobronchial injury such as hemorgency rhage, cyanosis, air leak or compliance changes may be absent in some patients. Interdisciplinary treatment requires precise documentation of the extent of the injuries, using advanced imaging techniques and bronchoscopy. Early repair may be necessary to prevent acute tension pneumothorax, airway obstruction, and chronic tracheal stenosis.