Dyspnea, cough, sputum production, and recurrent respiratory infections are frequently encountered clinical concerns leading patients to seek medical care. It is not unusual for a well-defined etiology to remain elusive or for the therapeutics of a presumed etiology to be incompletely effective. Either scenario should prompt consideration of central airway pathology as a contributor to clinical manifestations. Over the past decade, recognition of dynamic central airway collapse during respiration associated with multiple respiratory symptoms has become more commonly appreciated. Expiratory central airway collapse may represent the answer to this diagnostic void. Expiratory central airway collapse is an underdiagnosed disorder that can coexist with and mimic asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and bronchiectasis. Awareness of expiratory central airway collapse and its spectrum of symptoms is paramount to its recognition. This review includes clear definitions, diagnostics, and therapeutics for this challenging condition. We performed a narrative review through the PubMed (MEDLINE) database using the following MeSH terms: airway collapse, tracheobronchomalacia, tracheomalacia, and bronchomalacia. We include reports from systematic reviews, narrative reviews, clinical trials, and observational studies from 2005 to 2020. Two reviewers evaluated potential references. No systematic reviews were found. A total of 28 references were included into our review. Included studies report experience in the diagnosis and/or treatment of dynamic central airway collapse; case reports and non-English or non-Spanish studies were excluded. We describe the current diagnostic dilemma, highlighting the role of dynamic bronchoscopy and tracheobronchial stent trial; outline the complex therapeutic options (eg, tracheobronchoplasty); and present future directions and challenges.
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