Laryngotracheal Stenosis

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What is laryngotracheal stenosis?

While most breathing issues are caused by lung problems, sometimes there is a problem with the air passing through the voice box or trachea into the lungs. In this situation, patients often make a high-pitched noise during breathing called stridor. This high-pitched breathing sound is often confused with wheezing.

What causes laryngotracheal stenosis?

There are a number of problems that can cause an airway obstruction leading to stridor, including scar tissue in the larynx or trachea, vocal cord immobility, or more rarely a mass obstructing the airway.

When scar or inflammatory tissue builds up in the voice box or trachea, it can narrow your breathing passage. This can occur following placement of a breathing tube, after throat trauma, as a result of an autoimmune disease or from an unknown cause. If both your vocal folds do not move, then they do not open during breathing and can restrict the airflow through the voice box. A benign or cancerous tumor or an inflammatory or infectious growth can cause an obstruction of the airway.

Treatment of Complex Airway Disorders – FAQs

Otolaryngologist Alexander Hillel, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Complex Airway Clinic, discusses complex airway disorders (layngotracheal stenosis), how to get a correct diagnosis and what treatment options are available depending on the severity of the disease.

Laryngotracheal Stenosis Treatment

If you are having trouble breathing at the time of your exam, urgent intervention, such as administration of medication or even admission to the hospital, may be needed to ensure your safety.

Depending on the results of your examination, you may require further workup in the form of radiographic studies, bloodwork or biopsies.

Many different treatment options are available, depending upon your diagnosis.

  • Scar tissue in the voice box and/or trachea: Surgery is often needed to open up the airway to improve your breathing. More rarely, medications can sometimes be used to slow the inflammatory process that is causing obstruction.
  • Vocal cord immobility: Treatment depends upon the cause of the vocal cord immobility but often requires surgery to open up your airway.
  • A mass obstructing the airway: A biopsy is often needed, and treatment depends upon the diagnosis.

Johns Hopkins Laryngology

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Johns Hopkins laryngologists deliver state-of-the-art care for voice, swallowing and airway disorders to help you feel your best. 

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