Laryngomalacia is the most common cause of noisy breathing in infants. It is caused by a collapse of tissue in the larynx above the vocal cords.
Laryngomalacia causes a squeaky, high-pitched noise in children that commonly occurs while children are breathing in. This is known as stridor.
By examining and listening to your baby or infant breathe your pediatric otolaryngologist (ENT) will be able to tell if they likely have laryngomalacia. This usually requires a fiberoptic laryngoscopy. During this procedure, a small flexible tube with a tiny camera is passed through the mouth or nose to examine the nasal passages, vocal cords, larynx, and upper airway. This is a brief and mildly uncomfortable, but not painful procedure, usually done during an office visit without any sedating medications.
In most cases, laryngomalacia is treated by a wait-and-see approach with careful follow-up. Most of time, the condition resolves without intervention.
Our team of pediatric ENTs at the Johns Hopkins follow children with laryngomalacia from diagnosis to resolution of the breathing noise. It is important to monitor an infant’s development, weight gain and to make sure there are no other signs of airway problems. If everything seems to be progressing normally, no further treatment or evaluation will be necessary.
In more severe cases, surgery to trim excess tissue in the larynx (supraglottoplasty) may be helpful to improve stridor from laryngomalacia.
For more information about laryngomalacia please review our handout.
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