The surgery, designed to alleviate the chronic coughing and breathing problems that accompany a collapsing airway, was performed by thoracic surgeon Charles Bakhos, M.D., who reinforced the back wall of the patient’s trachea with mesh to stabilize the airway and minimize the possibility of continued collapse.
Dr. Bakhos called collapsing airways an under-recognized condition that is “very frustrating and debilitating for patients, like having bronchitis or pneumonia that never goes away.” The condition occurs in five to 10 percent of patients with significant respiratory diseases.
The surgical placement of mesh, or tracheoplasty, is a promising new procedure that offers certain patients a longer-term solution than most common treatments, Dr. Bakhos said. He hopes to make the procedure more readily available in the Capital Region.
The condition of collapsing airway, known as tracheobronchomalacia, is first treated with inhalers, medications to loosen up secretions and antibiotics in the presence of an infection. Placement of a stent in the airway can be performed on patients who don’t respond to medical treatment or whose quality of life is especially compromised. Stenting, however, can only be temporary, as it can lead to serious complications over the long run.
Colonie resident Tony Cleghorn, 54, Dr. Bakhos’s first patient in the area, is certainly grateful for his efforts. “Most of my adult life I’ve had trouble breathing,” said Cleghorn, a computer programmer. “I’d been to all kinds of doctors—allergists, pulmonologists, respiratory specialists. Everyone, myself included, has been trying to figure this out. Dr. Bakhos finally identified what was wrong.”
Cleghorn, who had the surgery in January, said, “I’m still healing, but I feel a whole lot better. I can breathe in and out much more easily. I consider Dr. Bakhos a miracle worker. He finally solved a problem I’ve been fighting for years.”
Albany Medical Center, northeastern New York’s only academic health sciences center, is one of the largest private employers in the Capital Region. It incorporates the 734-bed Albany Medical Center Hospital, which offers the widest range of medical and surgical services in the region, and the Albany Medical College, which trains the next generation of doctors, scientists and other health care professionals, and also includes a biomedical research enterprise and the region’s largest physicians practice with more than 450 doctors. Albany Medical Center works with dozens of community partners to improve the region’s health and quality of life.
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