KidsMD Health Topics

Laryngeal Cleft

  • Overview

    Laryngeal cleft is a rare abnormality of the separation between the larynx, or voice box, and the esophagus.

    • When the larynx develops normally it is completely separate from the esophagus, so swallowed foods go directly into the stomach. A laryngeal cleft creates an opening between the larynx and the esophagus so food and liquid are in danger of passing through the larynx into the lungs.
       
    • Laryngeal cleft is a rare disorder that occurs in less than 0.1 percent of the population.

    Surgeons at Boston Children's Hospital were the first in the world to perform robotic surgery on an airway to correct a laryngeal cleft. The robotic equipment allows surgeons to work through the oral cavity and in the restricted confines of the airway without impeding breathing. This minimally-invasive technique results in less pain and scarring and faster recovery for our patients.

    Boston Children's Hospital 
    333 Longwood Avenue,
    3rd Floor
    Boston MA 02115

     617-355-3795
  • In-Depth

    What are the symptoms of laryngeal cleft?

    If your child has laryngeal cleft, you will most likely notice that she has swallowing problems. Coughing, gagging, frequent respiratory infections and chronic lung disease are also symptoms of the disorder.

  • Tests

    How is laryngeal cleft diagnosed?

    Laryngeal cleft is diagnosed through a comprehensive aero-digestive evaluation performed while your child is under anesthesia.

  • What treatments are available for laryngeal cleft?

    Laryngeal cleft is treated with surgery to close the opening in the larynx.

    Conventional treatment for the condition is invasive surgery requiring an incision in the neck and opening of the larynx, but Children's offers robotic surgery. Robotic surgery allows us to perform minimally invasive surgery. Using a high-tech robot, specially-trained surgeons perform complex operations through very small openings, thus reducing children's pain, recovery time, length of hospital stays and scars.

  • Your Story

    Eighteen-year-old Allison Pollock and 16-year-old Sam Kase have a lot in common, but it was a shared surgery that drew them together. After Sam read an article in Boston Children's Hospital's Dream magazine online, the two teens found support—and new friendship—in each other.

    Like Allison, Sam grew up with breathing and swallowing problems due to an abnormal opening between his esophagus and larynx-trachea. When breathing or drinking, air and liquids would often go into Sam's lungs, which would make him inhale deeply and sometimes choke. Allison also had trouble breathing and swallowing, and felt lethargic and had recurring bouts of pneumonia. After many years of evaluation, Allison came to Children's and was diagnosed as having a rare abnormality called a laryngeal cleft—a defect in the separation between the larynx, or voice box, and the esophagus. For both teenagers, part of growing up meant making multiple visits to specialists' offices, trying out many medications and having surgery.

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