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08 October 2021: Clinical Research  

Left Main Bronchus Stenosis Lesion, Neutrophil Count, and Platelet Count Are Predictors of Post-Tuberculosis Bronchomalacia

Yongchang Wu12BE*, Yishi Li2DF, Yang Bai2E, Jinyue Jiang2E, Xiaohui Wang2E, Shuliang Guo2AG

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.931779

Med Sci Monit 2021; 27:e931779



BACKGROUND: Post-tuberculosis bronchomalacia (PTBM) is one of the main conditions occurring in patients after tracheobronchial tuberculosis (TBTB), and is also associated with the recurrence of symptoms. The present study aimed to investigate the predictors of PTBM in patients who had been undergoing appropriate TB treatment.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: Clinical data of 104 patients with symptomatic airway stenosis after TBTB between January 01, 2019 and June 31, 2020 were recorded and analyzed. The association between baseline clinical characteristics, laboratory results, and PTBM was calculated with logistical regression. The time from onset of bronchoscopic intervention was examined by Kaplan-Meier estimates; differences between the 2 groups were tested by the log-rank test.

RESULTS: Fifty-seven patients (54.81%) had PTBM. In the multivariate logistical analysis, the left main bronchus stenosis lesion (odds ratio [OR]=3.763), neutrophil (NEUT) count (OR=1.527), and platelet (PLT) (OR=1.010) count were predictors of PTBM. During follow-up, patients with BM had a significantly longer duration from onset of bronchoscopic intervention than patients without BM (hazard ratio=2.412, P<0.0001). Further, all patients needing long-term bronchoscopic intervention therapy were subsequently identified as having PTBM. Additionally, blood PLT counts were significantly decreased to normal levels in the non-BM group (P<0.05), but not in the BM group (P>0.05).

CONCLUSIONS: PTBM is most likely to occur in the left main bronchus. The inflammatory and immune responses associated with NEUT and PLT may represent therapeutic targets of PTBM. Our study is the first to report that decreased blood PLT count has the potential to monitor the treatment response.

Keywords: Blood Platelets, Neutrophils, Tracheobronchomalacia, Bronchi, Bronchial Diseases, bronchomalacia, Bronchoscopy, Constriction, Pathologic, Female, Humans, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Platelet Count, Risk Assessment, Risk Factors, Tomography, X-Ray Computed, Tuberculosis, Pulmonary, young adult


Tracheomalacia is characterized by weakening of the airway wall and dynamic collapse of the airway lumen during respiration [1–4]; the condition is called tracheobronchomalacia if the main bronchi are also affected [5]. At present, there is no generally accepted adult classification of the causes of tracheomalacia. Tracheomalacia may result from tumor invasion [6], cicatricial tracheal stenosis associated with a tracheal tube [7], trauma and surgery [8], compression of an abnormal artery [9,10], or goiter [11], and can be associated with esophageal achalasia [12], cystic fibrosis [13], and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [14].

Tracheobronchial tuberculosis (TBTB) is a tuberculosis (TB) infection of the trachea and bronchus, and has been reported in 10–50% of patients with pulmonary TB (PTB) [15,16]. Due to the residual and long-term damage after TBTB, 90% of patients with TBTB develop some degree of airway stenosis in the long term, despite adequate antituberculous therapy [17,18]. Post-tuberculosis bronchomalacia (PTBM) is one of the main conditions affecting patients after TBTB [15,19,20]. Consistent with our clinical observations, Lee et al [15] reported that PTBM is associated with the recurrence of symptoms after TBTB. Therefore, in addition to antituberculous treatment, monitoring and determining PTBM is important for early diagnosis and treatment. However, no studies to date have investigated the predictors associated with PTBM. Therefore, we performed this retrospective study to investigate the predictors of PTBM in patients who had been undergoing appropriate TB treatment.

Material and Methods


We analyzed the medical records of 104 consecutive hospitalized patients with symptomatic airway stenosis after TBTB in the Department of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine at the First Affiliated Hospital of Chongqing Medical University between January 01, 2019 and June 31, 2020. All these patients had been undergoing appropriate TB treatment for at least 6 months. The exclusion criteria were active TB, malignant and other infectious diseases, and evidence of other systemic diseases. Data regarding clinical characteristics, laboratory examination, chest computed tomography (CT), bronchoscopic intervention treatment, and outcome were obtained from the patients’ medical records. The final date of follow-up was December 31, 2020. The study was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki and Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals, and the protocol was approved by the Ethics Committee of the First Affiliated Hospital of Chongqing Medical University (Approval ID: No 2020-147).


The laboratory examination included complete blood counts and liver-kidney function. A complete blood count included white blood cell (WBC), red blood cell (RBC), neutrophil (NEUT), lymphocyte (LYM), and platelet (PLT) counts, and hemoglobin (Hb) levels. Liver-kidney function tests included total protein (TP), albumin (Alb), total bilirubin (Tbil), alanine transaminase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT), and creatinine (Crea) levels.


PTBM was diagnosed according to Chung’s classification [20] using a bronchoscope (CV-290; Olympus, Tokyo, Japan). All symptomatic patients with airway stenosis after TBTB were treated using bronchoscopic intervention according to treatment guidelines [21] using an electrocautery needle knife (VIO 300S, ERBE, Tubingen, Germany), a dilatation balloon (ENDO-FLEX, Voerde, Germany), and a multi-use cryosurgery system (ERBOKRYO CA, ERBE, Tuebingen, Germany). Patients were followed up for at least 6 months after the last intervention. As the high incidence of recurrence is the most common problem among patients with PTBM, we therefore investigated the duration of bronchoscopic intervention after the onset of intervention in this population.


Normality was tested using the Shapiro-Wilk test to separate parametric from non-parametric variables. The continuous variables of normally distributed data are expressed as means±standard deviation and differences between any 2 groups were evaluated using the unpaired t test. Non-normally distributed data are expressed as median (interquartile range) and the differences were evaluated using the Mann-Whitney U test. Changes between 2 related groups were tested using the matched-pair t test for normally distributed variables and the Wilcoxon matched-pair signed-rank test for non-normally distributed variables. Categorical data are expressed as numbers (percentage), and comparisons for testing statistically significant differences were made using the χ2 test (minimum expected values ≥5) or Fisher’s exact test (minimum expected values <5). The association between baseline clinical characteristics, laboratory results, and PTBM was calculated with logistic regression analysis. The time from onset of bronchoscopic intervention was examined by Kaplan-Meier estimates, and differences between the 2 groups were tested by the log-rank test. Statistical analyses were performed using SPSS version 20.0 (SPSS Software, Inc., Chicago, IL, USA), and P<0.05 was considered statistically significant (all P values are from 2-sided tests). Graphical analysis was performed using GraphPad Prism 6.05 (GraphPad Software, Inc., La Jolla, CA, USA).



There were 104 consecutive hospitalized patients with airway stenosis after TBTB who underwent bronchoscopy; all the patients had cicatrices strictures, and 57 (54.81%) had PTBM, but other types of stenosis were not found. The chest HRCT and bronchoscopy features of patients with PTBM are shown in Figure 1. All patients underwent laboratory examination, chest CT, and bronchoscopic intervention on primary admission.


The relevant clinical characteristics of patients with BM and non-BM are summarized in Table 1. The significant clinical characteristics included age, sex, residence, smoking, bronchoscopic intervention history, and symptoms at presentation. Compared to patients without BM, those with BM were more likely to live in a rural area, and had a shorter duration from symptom onset to intervention, more acute intervention therapy, more stent placement, and longer average intervention interval history (all, P<0.05; Table 1).

There were no significant differences in age, sex, smoking, duration of PTB to TBTB diagnosis, and cough, dyspnea, or, more wheeze symptoms at presentation between patients with BM and those without BM (P>0.05).


The chest CT and bronchoscopy features are summarized in Table 2. The chest CT features included atelectasis, cavitary, fibrous lesion, mucus plugging, and bronchiectasis. There were no significant differences in any features between patients with BM and those without BM (P>0.05).

The bronchoscopy features primarily included stenosis lesion sites and stenosis degree. Compared to patients without BM, patients with BM had more trachea or left main bronchus stenosis lesions, and had ≥2 bronchi stenosis lesions more frequently (P<0.05). The differences did not vary significantly in the right main bronchus and bronchus intermedius stenosis lesions (P>0.05). Although significant differences were not found, there was a trend for patients with BM to have more severe airway stenosis than mild-to-moderate airway stenosis (χ2=2.908, P=0.088).


The results of the laboratory examinations are summarized in Table 3. Compared to patients without BM, those with BM had higher blood WBC, NEUT, and PLT counts; as well as a higher NEUT/LYM ratio (all, P<0.05). NEUT and PLT counts remained elevated in the initial stage. After bronchoscopic intervention, symptoms improved immediately, and about 2 weeks later NEUT and PLT counts began to fall in all the enrolled patients. Then, NEUT and PLT counts continued to increase as airway stenosis and bronchomalacia (BM) worsened. No significant differences were found in blood RBC counts, Hb levels, and LYM counts between the 2 groups (P>0.05). Regarding liver-kidney function, the blood TP, Alb, Tbil, ALT, AST, GGT, and Crea levels were not significantly different between BM and non-BM patients (P>0.05).


Among the variables that showed significant differences in the univariate analysis (Tables 1–3), 4 were selected using the forward stepwise method for the multivariate logistic regression model for PTBM. In the univariate analysis, living in a rural area, left main bronchus stenosis lesion, NEUT count, and PLT count were all associated with the development of PTBM (Table 4). In the multivariate logistic analysis, left main bronchus stenosis lesion, NEUT count, and PLT counts were independently associated with PTBM. Living in a rural area was excluded, which suggested that living in a rural area was not independently related to PTBM (Table 4).


Symptoms improved immediately after bronchoscopic intervention in all the enrolled patients. As shown in Figure 2, the time from onset of bronchoscopic intervention was significantly longer in patients with BM than that in patients without BM (hazard ratio [HR]=2.412, P<0.0001). During follow-up, there were 6 (10.53%) patients in the BM group and 2 (4.26%) patients in the non-BM group who required long-term bronchoscopic intervention therapy to restore airway patency. Further, the patients needing long-term bronchoscopic intervention therapy in the BM and non-BM groups were all subsequently identified as having BM.

The complete blood count results from 84 (53 with BM, 31 with non-BM) patients were used to study the long-term effect of bronchoscopic intervention therapy. The changes are summarized in Table 5. PLT counts were significantly decreased to normal levels in the non-BM group (P<0.05), but not in the BM group (P>0.05). The PLT counts in both groups showed a fluctuating trend in the long-term follow-up. The PLT counts in the non-BM group gradually decreased to normal levels, while the PLT counts in the BM group were always higher than normal levels. Regarding WBC, RBC, Hb, NEUT, and LYM levels, the changes were not significant in both groups (P>0.05).



The main limitation of our study is that it was a single-center retrospective study with a relatively small sample size; therefore, the possibility of bias exists. In addition, longer follow-up periods after bronchoscopic intervention are required to evaluate the recurrence of airway stenosis after TBTB. Prospective, multicenter, large-sample studies are needed to confirm our findings.


PTBM is most likely to occur in the left main bronchus. The inflammatory and immune responses associated with NEUT and PLT counts may represent therapeutic targets of PTBM in the future. Non-invasive strategies for monitoring PTBM are clinically important but lacking. Our study is the first to report that decreased blood PLT count has the potential to monitor the treatment response. In future studies, we will enroll more patients in a multicenter study to provide enough data to confirm the findings of the present study.


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