A bronchial stent helped my body work for me, not against me

After it was placed, my left bronchial stem expanded from 3 mm to 12 mm

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by Samuel Kirton |

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When I was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in early 2017, my care team went to work ensuring my quality of life was the best it could be given the circumstances. A bilateral lung transplant in 2021 offered me a second chance at life, but getting the transplant required a commitment to a lifetime of medical surveillance.

In December 2022, a routine bronchoscopy revealed my left bronchial stem (LBS) was narrowing. Over the next year, several balloon dilations brought only temporary success. Last May, after learning my LBS was continuing to narrow after each successive dilation — it had narrowed to 3 mm when it should have been 12-14 mm — a stent was placed in it.

The stent was removed in December 2023. It wasn’t meant to be a permanent solution. Instead, it was intended to train my LBS to remain open.

When the stent was placed I had a persistent cough and increased mucus production. I required two different medications through a nebulizer twice daily. Each session took about 30 minutes.

Bronchoscopies became even more routine. The stent needed to be checked and the area cleaned. Due to the stent’s construction and because it’s foreign to my body, it can become a colony for bacteria. It was also checked to ensure it wasn’t becoming embedded in the surrounding tissue.

I needed to rest for at least a day after each bronchoscopy. A low-grade fever and a cough usually followed each procedure. These were perfectly normal. Each time I was discharged, I was provided with instructions about thresholds that would serve as signs of infection, fever, and bleeding.

When the stent was removed in December, there were no after-effects.

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Bronchial stent nets me a small victory

I had my regular clinic visit last week, including a spirometry appointment. My spirometry numbers were stable and consistent with measurements from before contracting pneumonia in autumn 2022.

I also had a bronchoscopy to determine if my LBS had narrowed since the stent was removed. I’m pleased to report it hasn’t. The stent trained the area to stay open.

My LBS was measured at 12 mm. My body was working for me instead of against me. It’s a small victory, but there’s still much to do.

I’ve said it before: A transplant is a commitment to a lifetime of medical surveillance. I have a responsibility to take care of myself and my donated lungs. The commitment I made to my care team was to take my medications as prescribed, complete medical tests promptly, and alert my care team to issues as they occur.

A bronchoscopy is one of those medical tests. The bronchoscopy in December 2022 identified an issue that had to be addressed.

I’ll have another one in about three months. Going forward, my care team said only an annual bronchoscopy will be needed as long as my LBS doesn’t begin to show signs of narrowing.

I received the gift of these beautiful lungs and I plan to continue to keep my commitment to them. That’s how I can make every breath count.

Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.


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