Tracheomalacia after thyroidectomy for retrosternal goitres requiring sternotomy- A myth or reality?

Document Type



Anaesthesia; Cardiothoracic Surgery; Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery


Introduction: Tracheomalacia after thyroidectomy is not well understood. Reports on tracheomalacia are conflicting, with some suggesting a high rate and other large cohorts in which no tracheomalacia is reported. The aim of our study was to assess the incidence and factors associated with tracheomalacia after thyroidectomy in patients with retrosternal goitres requiring sternotomy at a high-volume tertiary care referral centre.
Methods: A longitudinal cohort study was conducted from January 2011 to December 2019. All adult patients who underwent thyroidectomy with sternotomy were included. Tracheomalacia was considered when tracheal rings were soft compared with other parts (proximal or distal) of the trachea and required either tracheostomy or resection with anastomosis. The decision to perform a tracheostomy or to administer continuous or bilevel positive airway pressure postoperatively was made depending on the degree of tracheomalacia. Logistic regression analysis was used to assess factors associated with tracheomalacia.
Results: We evaluated 40 patients who underwent thyroidectomy with sternotomy. The mean age of our cohort was 48.7 ± 11.3 years and the population was predominantly female (67.5%). One patient required tracheal resection with anastomosis, and two patients required tracheostomy. Multivariable logistic regression analysis did not reveal any patient- or thyroid-related factor significantly associated with the development of tracheomalacia in our cohort.
Conclusions: The incidence of tracheomalacia after thyroidectomy with sternotomy appears to be very low. However, the occurrence of tracheomalacia after thyroidectomy in cases of large goitre is possible and hence worrisome.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England