Introduction. We report the case of a patient who presented with subcutaneous emphysema, dyspnea and cough 7 days after total thyroidectomy for cancer. In addition we review the Literature and discuss the therapeutic challenges as well as management options.
Case report. A 17-year old female patient underwent a total thyroidectomy with right cervical lymph adenectomy for papillar cancer. Lung metastases are present. On postoperative day 7 she presented with face and neck swelling due to subcutaneous emphysema, dyspnea and persistent cough. The radiological evaluation revealed a tear on the right antero-lateral wall of the trachea. The patient underwent surgical exploration of the neck which confirmed the tracheal rupture and showed an important tracheal necrosis all around the tear. Due to the impossibility to make primary closure of the trachea or a tracheal resection, the tear was repaired with muscular flap interposition, (around the trachea as a scarf ), using the contralateral clavicular part of sternocleidomastoid muscle and prethyroid muscles bilaterally. The postoperative course was uneventful and the patient is alive 20 months after surgery and iodine induced adjuvant therapy.
Conclusion. Delayed tracheal rupture should be suspected in all patients who present subcutaneous emphysema after thyroid surgery.
The lesion should be promptly treated with primary closure or tracheal resection when possible. Muscular flap interposition could be a safe alternative option when the other procedures are contraindicated.
KEY WORDS: Total thyroidectomy - Tracheal rupture - Tracheal surgery - Muscular flap transposition.