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Alternative NamesType 1 tracheomalacia
Definition Return to top
Congenital tracheomalacia is a weakness and floppiness of the walls of the windpipe (trachea), which is present at birth.
Causes Return to top
Tracheomalacia in a newborn occurs when the cartilage in the windpipe (trachea) has not developed properly. Instead of being rigid, the walls of the trachea are floppy. Because the windpipe is the main airway, breathing difficulties begin soon after birth.
Congenital tracheomalacia is very uncommon.
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
A physical examination confirms the symptoms. An x-ray will be done to rule out other problems. The chest x-ray may show narrowing of the trachea when breathing in.
A procedure called a larngoscopy provides a definitive diagnosis. This procedure lets the otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor, or ENT) see the airway structure and determine the severity of the problem.
Other tests that may be done include:
Treatment Return to top
Most infants respond well to humidified air, careful feedings, and antibiotics for infections. Babies with tracheomalacia must be closely monitored when they have respiratory infections.
Often, the symptoms of tracheomalacia improve as the infant grows.
Rarely, surgery is needed.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Congenital tracheomalacia generally goes away on its own by the age of 18-24 months. As the tracheal cartilage gets stronger and the trachea grows, the noisy respirations and breathing difficulties gradually stop.
Possible Complications Return to top
Babies born with tracheomalacia may have other congenital abnormalities such as heart defects, developmental delay, or gastroesophageal reflux.
Aspiration pneumonia can occur from inhaling food contents.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if your child has breathing difficulties or breathing noises. It can become an urgent or emergency condition.Update Date: 9/28/2007 Updated by: Deirdre O’Reilly, MD, MPH, Neonatologist, Division of Newborn Medicine, Children’s Hospital Boston and Instructor in Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts. Review Provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.