Conditions + Treatments

Laryngeal Cleft in Children

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Contact the Center for Airway Disorders

A laryngeal cleft (or laryngotracheal cleft) is an abnormal opening between the larynx and the esophagus through which food and liquid are in danger of passing into the lungs. This causes a number of eating and breathing problems.

The Center for Airway Disorders at Boston Children's Hospital is designed to care for children with rare conditions of the airway. Our team provides the most advanced testing and airway treatments available.

What are Laryngeal Clefts?

When the larynx (voice box) develops normally, it is completely separate from the esophagus, so swallowed foods go directly into the stomach. A laryngeal cleft (or laryngotracheal cleft) is an abnormal opening between the larynx and the esophagus through which food and liquid can pass through the larynx into the lungs.

Types of Laryngeal Cleft

Laryngeal clefts are classified in one of four ways:

  • Type I is the mildest form of laryngeal cleft. The gap between the larynx and the esophagus is located above the vocal cords.
  • Type II laryngeal cleft extends into the lower cartilage of the voice box, below the vocal chords.
  • Type III laryngeal cleft extends beyond the voice box and into the trachea (windpipe).
  • Type IV is the most severe form laryngeal cleft. The gap extends even further down into the windpipe, and may go all the way to the bottom of the trachea.
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Boston Children's Hospital
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For Patients: 617-355-6000
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