Cricotracheal separation (CTS) is an uncommon injury, with a high index of suspicion required to establish the diagnosis. Computerized tomography (CT) plays a role in diagnosis but cannot necessarily be relied upon. Bilateral recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) palsies are usually associated with this type of injury. We recently treated a patient with CTS in whom one RLN was intact from the time of the injury and the other nerve recovered within three months. Computed tomography was inconclusive.
Early open repair of the injury and frequent follow-up examinations led to successful decannulation after six weeks and excellent short-term voice and airway outcomes.
A detailed discussion of this unusual case is followed by a review of the current literature on CTS, with particular emphasis on significant management dilemmas and controversies.
Clinical suspicion remains more sensitive than investigations in diagnosing CTS. Permanent bilateral RLN palsies are not inevitable following these injuries.