Conditions We Treat: Laryngomalacia

Have you ever noticed your child breathing abnormally loud during sleep, in a way that differs from snoring? It may be laryngomalacia, a condition that can be successfully treated. Learn more about laryngomalacia and how the expert team at ENT, Sinus & Hearing Care Center can help.

Laryngomalacia Drawing

What Is Laryngomalacia?

Laryngomalacia is a condition affecting the larynx or voice box of a child — typically a baby or infant. Usually congenital, the condition involves an abnormal softening of larynx tissue, making it floppy. When the child breathes, this floppy tissue will slip down inside the airway.

Laryngomalacia ranges from mild to severe. Most children with the condition experience only a mild case. The noisy breathing may be noticeable in such cases but won’t cause any serious health problems.

Severe cases of laryngomalacia are rare but usually present with other problems in addition to noisy breathing — some of which can be serious. Examples include choking or regurgitating food.


What Causes Laryngomalacia?

The exact cause of this condition isn’t yet known, but it may relate to formation of the larynx before birth.


What Are Symptoms of Laryngomalacia?

An intermittent breathing sound as a baby breathes in or out is one of the most common symptoms of laryngomalacia. The breathing may be reduced or exasperated, depending on the position in which the child is lying. It may worsen when the child is excited, agitated, or crying.

Additional signs or symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty feeding the child
  • Low weight gain
  • Choking on food
  • Vomiting
  • Retraction of the chest or neck
  • Pausing during breathing
  • Spitting out stomach acid

Symptoms begin from the time the child is born and will increase after a period of about 10 days. The majority of children who have this condition will outgrow it in 12 to 18 months.


How Is the Diagnosis Established?

There are a number of tests our ear, nose, and throat expert, Dr. Daniel S. Samadi, can use to diagnose the condition. One procedure, a flexible laryngoscopy, involves inserting a laryngoscope through the nose and mouth to determine whether the tissue atop the vocal cords has a floppy shape.

Dr. Samadi will also check the child’s upper airway to determine if there are additional problems that may be causing the noisy breathing. X-rays of the chest or neck, which can help detect problems within the trachea or lungs, may also be recommended.


How Is Laryngomalacia Treated?

Laryngomalacia will often resolve on its own, with babies typically growing out of it within two years. In rare cases in which the condition persists, a supraglottoplasty may be needed.

The procedure involves cutting the floppy tissue above the vocal cords while the patient is under anesthesia. It requires an overnight hospital stay for monitoring in the pediatric intensive care unit.

In most cases, surgery either eliminates or drastically reduces the laryngomalacia.

At ENT, Sinus & Hearing Care Center, we’re dedicated to your child’s optimal health and development. If your child’s breathing seems abnormal, it may be a serious issue, so don’t wait. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.

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