Congenital tracheomalacia is an uncommon condition in which a child is born with an underdeveloped trachea (windpipe). The trachea is made of C-shaped rings of cartilage, a firm connective tissue that is present in the ear, joints, and other parts of the body. In individuals with congenital tracheomalacia, this cartilage does not develop properly, and becomes floppy instead of rigid and firm. The floppiness may allow the windpipe to collapse. This condition causes potentially severe breathing problems, as the trachea is the primary airway.
Symptoms of this condition may be mild to severe and include noisy, rattling, or high-pitched breathing; breathing that worsens with coughing, crying, feeding, or respiratory infections; and abnormal breathing that improves during sleep. Children with congenital tracheomalacia also frequently develop upper respiratory infections. Tracheomalacia can occur alone or other congenital defects may be present which include heart defects and gastrointestinal problems. An X-ray is generally used to diagnose congenital tracheomalacia, but other tests may be used. For less severe cases, humidifiers can improve breathing, and antibiotics can be used to fight infections. Additionally, the condition generally goes away on its own within the first two years of life as the cartilage becomes stronger. However, more severe cases may require surgeries. If your child has been diagnosed with congenital tracheomalacia, speak with your doctor to discuss the most current treatment options.