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Tracheomalacia

Tracheomalacia is the medical term used to describe a condition often referred to by clinicians as "floppy airway." Tracheomalacia may be of primary or secondary origin. The condition is often seen in infants born preterm and is the result of immature cartilaginous development in the tracheal rings (a primary cause), which allows the trachea to essentially "fold in" upon itself. This intermittent collapse of the trachea may result in varying degrees of airway obstruction, and is responsible for the "snoring" type respirations often heard in infants born significantly preterm. Mild to moderate tracheomalacia frequently resolves during the first year of life as the tracheal cartilage matures and becomes more competent. The tracheal lumen also increases with the infant's normal growth and development (up to three times in diameter the first year), which further improves any obstructive symptoms. Although parents/caregivers of infants experiencing noisy respirations from tracheomalacia should receive reassurance, they also should be instructed concerning signs of serious airway compromise, such as cyanosis, retractions, etc., should the condition deteriorate.

Bluestone, C.D. (2004). Humans are born too soon: Impact on pediatric otolaryngology. International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolarnygology, 69(1), 1-11.