Acquired tracheomalacia is a weakness and floppiness of the walls of the windpipe (trachea) that develops after birth.
Acquired tracheomalacia is very uncommon. Rarely, babies, infants, and adults may develop the condition. It occurs when normal cartilage in the wall of the windpipe begins to break down.
Acquired, or secondary, tracheomalacia may result:
- From pressure on the airway by large blood vessels
- As a complication after surgical repair of a tracheo-esophagela fistula or esophageal atresia
- After having a breathing tube or tracheostomy for a long time
- Breathing problems that get worse with coughing, crying, or upper respiratory infections
- Breathing noises that may change with position and improve during sleep
- High-pitched breathing
- Rattling, noisy breaths
Exams and Tests
A physical examination confirms the symptoms. A chest x-ray may show narrowing of the trachea when breathing out. Even if the x-ray is normal, it is needed to rule out other problems.
A procedure called a
Other tests that may be performed include:
- Airway fluoroscopy
- Barium swallow
- CT scan
- Lung function tests
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
The condition may improve without treatment, but persons with tracheomalacia must be monitored closely when they have respiratory infections.
Adults who develop tracheomalacia after being on a breathing machine often have serious lung problems.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you or your child breathes in an abnormal way. It can become an urgent or emergency condition.