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Tracheobronchomalacia

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Tracheobronchomalacia is a condition in which the walls of your windpipe (trachea) collapse when you breathe or cough. Normally, the walls of your trachea are stiff and remain open.

The condition can be present at birth, or it can develop in adulthood as a result of another lung condition – such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or pulmonary fibrosis.

Tracheobronchomalacia can also be caused by:

  • Chronic throat irritation from coughing
  • Injury to the windpipe, such damage during throat surgery
  • Pulmonary or aortic aneurysms
  • Secondhand smoke
  • Tracheal tumors, both noncancerous (benign) and cancerous, and benign and cancerous thyroid tumors

Risk Factors

Researchers believe tracheobronchomalacia runs in families. Infants born with the condition are thought to have inherited it. Adults who smoke or have lung disease are at greater risk of developing tracheobronchomalacia

Symptoms

Symptoms of tracheobronchomalacia may come on gradually and are often mistaken for other conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and COPD. The most common symptom is difficulty breathing, but other symptoms can include:

  • Bluish tint to the tissue inside of your nose and mouth
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty clearing mucus from your throat
  • Frequent upper-airway and lung infections, such as pneumonia 
  • High-pitched sound when breathing in air (stridor)

At the University of Miami Health System, you benefit from the expertise of specialists in lung care, thoracic surgery, head and neck surgery, and imaging. We offer a full range of treatments for lung and airway conditions, including the latest minimally invasive approaches. You get personal attention and expert care to help you feel better and breathe easier.

Why Choose UHealth?

Fast, accurate diagnosis. We offer the latest testing in our technologically advanced pulmonary function labs, including advanced diagnostic imaging. Our experienced teams and advanced equipment give us the highest quality results for a correct diagnosis.

Advanced, minimally invasive approaches to find and treat lung problems. Our interventional pulmonology specialists use a minimally invasive technique called bronchoscopy to help diagnose, stage, and repair lung problems. You have access to leading-edge approaches such as endobronchial ultrasound, electromagnetic navigation, bronchial thermoplasty, and stenting.

Get the latest treatment breakthroughs sooner. As an academic medical center, we offer the latest, proven approaches backed by the leading-edge research of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Our medical and academic researchers are continually seeking better ways to find and treat airway and lung problems with ongoing research and clinical trials in asthma, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary fibrosis, and more.

Leaders in robotic surgery treatment. We have some of the world’s most experienced robotic surgeons for minimally invasive urologic procedures. We were the first academic medical center in the world to get the da Vinci Xi robotic surgery system. Our surgeons have completed more than 5,000 robotic surgeries — procedures that offer less pain and scarring and a faster recovery.

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Tests

  • Bronchoscopy

    This procedure uses a bronchoscope to look inside your airways for narrowing or blockages, such as scar tissue or a tumor. In many instances, your doctor can use bronchoscopy to discover what’s causing your symptoms and provide treatment during the same procedure.

  • Lung Function Tests

    Your doctor may use lung function tests to measure how much air your lungs can hold and how quickly air moves in and out of them. Tests may include spirometry, plethysmography, gas diffusion, or inhalation challenge tests.

  • Imaging Exams

    A chest CT scan shows the inside of your chest and airways. The test may use dye, given as a shot, to show greater detail of the blood vessels. Your imaging technologist may have you inhale and exhale during the test (dynamic 3D chest scan).

Treatments

  • Tracheobronchial Airway Stenting

    This approach uses a tube (stent) to hold open the collapsed area of your airway. Your doctor will insert a bronchoscope – a thin tube with a light and camera – through your mouth or nose and into your throat to place the stent.

  • Surgery

    If your condition is severe, your doctor may use tracheobronchoplasty to place surgical mesh in the collapsed area of your trachea, which reinforces airway walls and keeps them open. If only a small part of your trachea is collapsed, tracheal resection and reconstruction may offer a solution. In this procedure, your doctor removes the weakened area of your trachea and connects the remaining ends.