Carinal resection: technical tips
Carinal resection (CR) is defined as the resection of the trachea-bronchial bifurcation with or without lung resection. It is an uncommon challenging surgery performed in case of NSCLC, primitive airway tumors or benign lesions invading the carina. A well-organized team is essential to manage patients undergoing CR and it must involve several specialists experienced in diagnosis, operative treatment and postoperative care. Before and during surgery a strict cooperation between surgeon and anesthesiologist is essential; cross-field ventilation is generally used to maintain the adequate gas exchange during surgical airway reconstruction, but also high frequency jet ventilation (HFJV) or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) could be valid alternative options when cross-field ventilation is not feasible. Right-sided lesions requiring a CR with pulmonary resection are better approached through an ipsilateral thoracotomy (IV intercostal space), whereas tumor involving the carina as well as the left main bronchus and requiring a left carinal pneumonectomy could be treated using a left thoracotomy with subaortic dissection (only for very limited tracheal resection due to a bad exposure of the trachea after moving the aortic arch). Instead, CR without pulmonary resection and left carinal pneumonectomy are better approached through a median sternotomy. Reconstruction of the airway could be performed in different ways according to the extension of the resection and to the surgeon experience with the sole purpose to obtain a tension-free anastomosis to reduce as much as possible the possible post-operative complications due to impairment healing of the suture. Based on tumor histology and the pathological staging the patient should be referred to the oncologist and/or radiotherapist for the further medical treatments. Improved patient selection, anesthetic management, surgical technique and better postoperative management are essential in such a challenging surgery to have the lowest possible rate of postoperative morbidity and mortality.