Laryngomalacia is a disorder that effects the larynx (voice box) of infants. Laryngomalacia most often presents as noisy breathing or stridor as early as 2 weeks of age. Infants with laryngomalacia will have stridor and may also have difficulty in breathing, feeding and gaining weight, failure to thrive and respiratory distress. This can lead to poor quality of life and anxiety in parents.
The larynx of a child with laryngomalacia will demonstrate one or all of the following:
- Excess tissue overlying the arytenoid cartilages (cartilage above the voice box) with evidence of arytenoid cartilages falling into the airway (arytenoid prolapse).
- Short aryepiglottic folds (AE folds).
- Omega-shaped epiglottis and prolapse of the epiglottis into the airway.
This prolapse of airway structures during inspiration is what leads to airway distress in children with laryngomalacia. The noisy breathing in these children is caused by increased resistance of air flowing though the larynx due the tissue blocking the airway.