Evaluation of airway obstruction using virtual endoscopy

Alan J. Burke, David J. Vining, William F. McGuirt, Gregory Postma, J. Dale Browne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Objectives: This study examines the use of virtual endoscopy (VE) in the evaluation of patients with upper airway obstruction. The utility of VE compared with actual endoscopy was investigated with respect to accuracy of diagnosis and reproduction of endoscopic images. Study Design: A random cohort of 30 patients with various causes of airway obstruction was examined. Methods: The computed tomography (CT) data were reconstructed using a proprietary VE software program, FreeFlight, blind to the actual endoscopic findings. The cause of obstruction was identified and compared with actual endoscopic findings. This included 21 patients with airway stenoses, 8 patients with laryngotracheomalacia, 3 tracheal tumors, 2 glottic webs, 5 patients with innominate artery compression, 2 tracheal granulomas, and 7 patients with impaired true vocal cord mobility. Results: Virtual endoscopic evaluation was accurate in assessing stenosis width and length of fixed airway lesions. Correlation of stenosis shape and contour between actual endoscopy and VE was excellent. The stenosis-to-lumen ratios were compared between VE and actual endoscopy and were found to be within 10% (SD = 8). However, virtual endoscopic evaluation could not illustrate one of the glottic webs, half of the cases of tracheomalacia, or any of the cases of impaired true vocal cord mobility. Conclusions: Virtual endoscopy was not as sensitive as actual endoscopy in detecting the cause of airway obstruction that was based on dynamic movement. However, VE was excellent for the measurement and definition of fixed airway lesions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-29
Number of pages7
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Airway obstruction
  • Computed tomography
  • Laryngeal web
  • Stridor
  • Subglottic stenosis
  • Three-dimensional reconstruction
  • Tracheal stenosis
  • Tracheal tumor
  • Tracheomalacia
  • Virtual endoscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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