Tracheomalacia is a condition or incident where the cartilage that keeps the airway (trachea) open is soft such that the trachea partly collapses especially during increased airflow. The usual symptom is stridor when a person breathes out. This is usually known as a collapsed windpipe.
Acquired tracheomalacia is a weakness and floppiness of the walls of the windpipe (trachea, or airway). It develops after birth.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Tracheomalacia?
- High-pitched breathing.
- Rattling or noisy breathing (stridor)
- Frequent infections in the airway, such as bronchitis or pneumonia (because your child can’t cough or otherwise clear his lungs)
- Frequent noisy cough.
- Exercise intolerance.
Acquired tracheomalacia is very uncommon at any age. It occurs when normal cartilage in the wall of the windpipe begins to break down.
This form of tracheomalacia may result:
- When large blood vessels put pressure on the airway
- As a complication after surgery to repair birth defects in the windpipe and esophagus (the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach)
- After having a breathing tube or trachea tube (tracheostomy) for a long time
The condition may improve without treatment. However, people with tracheomalacia must be monitored closely when they have respiratory infections.
Adults with breathing problems may need continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Rarely, surgery is needed. A hollow tube called a stent may be placed to hold the airway open.