Upper airway disorders

The airway segment between the nose or mouth and the main carina, located at the lower end of the trachea is called upper airway. The four compartments of upper airway are the nose and mouth, the pharynx, the larynx, and the trachea. Upper airway disorders refer to abnormal narrowing or Stenosis in larynx and trachea.

Upper airway disorders may occur abruptly and cause breathing problems. In certain cases, it may even cause death.

Symptoms of Upper Airway Disorders

The most common symptom of upper airway disorders is shortness of breath. If it becomes acute, it causes sudden dyspnoea or even suffocation. Noisy breathing is also seen in people diagnosed with upper airway disorders. In most cases upper airway disorders are manifested in the forms of:

  • Subglottic Stenosis
  • Tracheal Stenosis
  • Posterior Glottic Stenosis
  • Bilateral vocal fold paralysis
  • Supraglottic Stenosis

Causes of Upper Airway Disorders

The doctors and researchers assume a variety of causes that contribute to upper airway disorder. These causes are:

  • Infection (e.g., epiglottises, Ludwig’s angina, croup)
  • Aspiration (e.g., foreign body)
  • angioedema (e.g., allergic, hereditary, drug-induced)
  • Iatrogenic (e.g., instrumentation, post-surgical)
  • Haemorrhage (e.g., tumours, blood dyscrasia)
  • Inhalation injury (e.g., explosion, fire, industrial accident)
  • Blunt trauma (e.g., motor vehicle accident, physical attack)
  • Neuromuscular disease (e.g., myasthenic crisis, laryngeal-pharyngeal dystonia)

The chronic upper airway disorders occur due to several reasons which include:

  • Infection (e.g., tuberculosis, rhinoscleroma)
  • Tumour (e.g., Squamous cell carcinoma of larynx and trachea, Hamartomas, Hemangioma)
  • Collagen vascular disease (e.g., Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA) relapsing polychondritis)
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Amyloidosis
  • Post-intubation (e.g., tracheomalacia, tracheal Stenosis)
  • Mediastinal mass (e.g., Thymoma, lymphadenopathy)
  • vascular abnormality (e.g., vascular ring, aortic aneurysm)
  • Esophageal disorder (e.g., Achlasia, Zenker’s diverticulum)
  • Laryngeal dysfunction (e.g., vocal cord paralysis, vocal cord dysfunction, laryngocoele)
  • Neuromuscular disease (e.g., Parkinson’s disease, bulbar palsy)
  • Tracheobronchopathia osteochondroplastica
  • Idiopathic (e.g., Sub-Glottic Stenosis)
  • Tonsillar enlargement in children

Diagnosis of Upper Airway Disorders

Using the Respiratory Disturbance Index (RDI), upper airway disorders can be diagnosed. If you have an Apnea-Hypopnea Index (AHI) less than 5, but an RDI index greater than or equal to 5, it is clear that you have developed upper airway disorders.

Polysomnograms are also done by doctors to diagnose upper airway disorders.

Digital Endoscopic Video: The non invasive digital endoscopic video helps assessing upper airway disorders. With these video images the doctors can make a correct diagnosis and choose the best treatment option.

Both endoscopic-assisted and exercise-induced pulmonary function tests help diagnosing upper airway disorders.

Treatment of Upper Airway Disorders

Doctors adopt medical and surgical approaches to treat upper airway disorders. Depending upon the severity of the condition, they choose the mode of treatment.

Observing the symptoms and nature of disorders, the doctors prescribe certain medicines initially. If the problem is not cured with medications, the doctors recommend for surgery.

Surgical procedure includes surgical resection of the obstructing lesion(s). If complete surgical resection is not possible, the doctors suggest for a number of palliative procedures such as: Cryotherapy, laser ablation, endoscopic resection, and stent placement. These approaches are used to relieve symptoms and improve short- and long-term outcomes.

About CURA

The ENT department at CURA, Multispeciality Hospital is known for its world class treatment and state of the art facilities. Equipped with all kinds of tools and equipments our Pulmonology lab and OTs allow the proficient doctors and technicians perform all kinds of tests and diagnostic procedures and surgeries with accuracy. For any kind of ENT issues, come and consult our renowned doctors and technician and avail the best treatment. 

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