Congenital Laryngeal Stridor / Laryngomalacia

What is congenital laryngeal stridor?

Congenital laryngeal stridor (also called laryngomalacia) results from a congenital (present at birth) anomaly of the larynx (voice box). A weakness in the structures in the larynx, can cause stridor. Stridor is a high-pitched sound that is heard best when the child breathes in (inspiration).

What causes congenital laryngeal stridor?

Congenital laryngeal stridor is a defect that is present at birth. During fetal development, the structures in the larynx may not fully develop. As a result, there is a weakness in these structures at birth, causing them to collapse during breathing. In children, congenital laryngeal stridor is the most common cause of chronic stridor. Sixty percent of infants born with congenital laryngeal stridor will have symptoms in the first week of life. Most other infants will show symptoms by 5 weeks old.

What are the symptoms of congenital laryngeal stridor?

The major symptom of this disorder is the stridor that is heard as the infant breathes. The stridor is usually heard when the infant breathes in (inspiration), but can also be heard when the infant breathes out (expiration). Other characteristics of the stridor may include:

  • The stridor changes with activity.
  • The stridor is present during different phases of alertness - eating, sleeping, or excitement.
  • The stridor is usually less noisy when the child is laying on his/her stomach.
  • The stridor gets worse if the infant has an upper respiratory infection.

The symptoms of congenital laryngeal stridor may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

How is congenital laryngeal stridor diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for congenital laryngeal stridor may include laryngoscopy or bronchoscopy of the airways - a procedure which involves a tube being passed into the airways to allow your child's physician to observe the airways during breathing.

Treatment for congenital laryngeal stridor:

In most cases, congenital laryngeal stridor is a harmless condition that resolves on its own, without medical intervention. The condition usually improves by the time the infant is 18 months old and has no long-term complications. In some cases, the stridor is apparent until about the age of 5. Each child's case is unique. A small percentage develop severe respiratory problems which require medical and surgical interventions.

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