Therapeutic rigid bronchoscopy intervention for malignant central airway obstruction improves performance status to allow systemic treatment

Edward Y.C. Lee, Annette M. McWilliams, Matthew R. Salamonsen

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Background: Malignant central airway obstruction may result in an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group Performance Status (ECOG PS) that precludes treatment with systemic therapies. We sought to evaluate outcomes of patients undergoing rigid bronchoscopy for malignant central airways obstruction (MCAO) and its effect on access to systemic therapies including immunotherapy. Patients and Methods: We conducted a retrospective observational single-center study evaluating 77 consecutive patients who underwent rigid bronchoscopy from March 2015 to November 2019. Procedural details, preprocedural and postprocedural ECOG PS, complications, and proportions of patients receiving systemic therapy postprocedure were recorded. Results: The majority of patients were ECOG PS 2 to 3 at diagnosis (62%). The most common indication was MCAO due to squamous cell carcinoma (35.1%). MCAO was managed with a debulking/dilatation procedure alone (51.9%) or in combination with stenting (48.1%). The laser was unavailable, electrocautery was used for hemostasis only not tumor ablation. Significant improvement in ECOG PS postprocedure in the group with baseline ECOG PS 3 to 4 (P < 0.0001) and in those with baseline ECOG PS 0 to 4 (P < 0.00001) was observed. The main complication was bleeding, controlled bronchoscopically with mechanical compression with a rigid bronchoscope and/or electrocautery (68.8% of patients). No deaths occurred. Overall, 70% of those presenting with ECOG 3 to 4 went onto receive systemic therapies that would have been contraindicated due to poor baseline ECOG PS. Conclusion: Therapeutic rigid bronchoscopy is safe and efficacious in the management of MCAO, improving ECOG PS allowing for the administration of systemic therapies. This is especially important in the era of immunotherapy and directed therapies, which have been shown to provide significant survival benefit over conventional therapies alone.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Bronchology and Interventional Pulmonology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2021


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