Miracle treatment saves patient from constricted windpipe

Lo Thi Chai from the central province of Nghe An was admitted to the National Lung Hospital in Hanoi at the end of May as she struggled to breathe.

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Doctors check Lo Thi Chai after surgery. — VNA/VNS Photo

She had suffered from tuberculosis two years ago and was in remission.

However, the disease had progressed for the worse, constricting her trachea and blocking the airway, leading to a shortness of breath.

The 25-year-old girl was on the verge of death and doctors told her family that her chances of survival were only one in 1,000.

Chai was breathing in just 10 per cent of the oxygen she needed, said Dr Nguyen Viet Nghia, deputy head of the Anaesthesiology and Recovery Department at the National Lung Hospital.

The life-threatening disease had caused trachea stenosis, a rare malformation in which the windpipe is severely narrowed. It often occurs as a consequence of injury or a birth defect.

Doctors at the National Lung Hospital and Hospital E have attempted several methods to save the girl.

One of the most common treatments is bronchial resection and reconstruction, with assistance of technology, to reshape the bronchial located to the right and clear the clogged airway.

The doctors thought about removing her right lung as the best solution at that time, but this method could have hit her immune system.

Another treatment that doctors discussed was an airway stent which is a tube made out of silicone placed in the airway to help keep it open.

Stents are widely used as both short term and long term treatments for stenosis.

But in the special case of Chai, the soft stent made out of silicone placed in her bronchial was crushed as well.


Not until the third try, did the doctors succeed and make a miracle.

Doctors from the National Lung Hospital and Hospital E worked with partners from the Viet Nam-Germany Hospital to brainstorm a grid stent made out of iron to keep the airway open.

After two surgeries with the aid of heart-lung machines and six attempts at stent placement, the surgeons succeeded in connecting the trachea with the primary bronchial and clearing the airway.

All of the costs were paid by the Patients Support Foundation to End Tuberculosis funded by the National Lung Hospital. The foundation has helped a lot of patients to overcome their disease by investing hundreds of millions of dong in the most advanced technologies and anti-bacterial medicines for tuberculosis treatment.

Chai is now able to breathe without difficulty, walk and eat normally.

Associate Professor Nguyen Viet Nhung, director of the National Lung Hospital, said she would recover quickly.

“The biggest happiness for doctors is being able to save our patients,” he said.

Chai’s case is one of many complicated cases doctors have cured using advanced technology. Without technology, 100 per cent of cases like that could not be saved in the past, he said.

The success this time is the result of close collaboration between hospital departments, from surgery, endoscopy, internal medicine, nutrition to rehabilitation, and co-operation among three hospitals.

“When we co-operate, we have absolute power.”

Dr Nhung said: "This incident serves as another example to why we need to do our best to eradicate tuberculosis." He stressed that early detection, treatment and curing the complications after the disease is gone are extremely important.

The successful treatment of a rare and complicated case this time serves as a foundation for the National Lung Hospital to make preparations to conduct lung transplants this year, he said.


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