Tracheal Stenosis

What is tracheal stenosis?

Tracheal stenosis is a constriction or narrowing of the cartilage that supports the windpipe (trachea). It can be present at birth (congenital) or caused by an injury.

This narrowing (stenosis) can be a result of:

  • Complete tracheal rings: One or more rings of the cartilage that supports the trachea appear as O-shaped (instead of C-shaped) and constrict the airway.
  • A tracheal cartilaginous sleeve: The cartilage in trachea forms a sleeve instead of independent rings. This malformation is makes it easy for the airway to become blocked.

What are the symptoms of tracheal stenosis?

Symptoms of tracheal stenosis can be present shortly after birth or develop after an injury to the trachea. Symptoms include:

  • noisy breathing (stridor)
  • recurring pneumonia
  • wheezing
  • blue spells (cyanosis)
  • paused in breathing (apnea)
  • chest congestion

An upper respiratory infection can worsen symptoms.

What causes tracheal stenosis?

Tracheal stenosis can be present at birth (congenital). The cause of congenital tracheal stenosis is unknown.

Tracheal stenosis can also be acquired. It can develop when scar tissue forms in the trachea due to prolonged intubation or airway surgery. Intubation occurs when a tube is inserted into the trachea to help maintain breathing during a medical or surgical procedure. 

How we care for tracheal stenosis

The Center for Airway Disorders at Boston Children’s Hospital provides the most advanced medical and surgical treatments available for airway disorders, including tracheal stenosis. Our team approach includes the expertise of specialists from various fields who provide comprehensive assessment, treatment and follow-up care.