Pediatric Airway Disorders
When your child has a complex breathing, swallowing or voice disorder, you want the very best multidisciplinary care available.
Expert Care for Pediatric Airway Problems
Find pediatric airway specialists at N.C. Children’s Hospital—a hospital nationally recognized for providing outstanding care for children with respiratory problems.
At the North Carolina Children’s Airway Center, your child will receive expert evaluation and highly specialized, individualized care. You can rely on our experience; since opening in 2007, we’ve cared for more than 1,300 children from across the region.
Conditions We Treat
Whether your child was born with a complex airway disorder or developed problems later, UNC Children’s offers comprehensive care. We treat rare and common congenital and acquired airway disorders, including:
- Obstructive sleep apnea – Difficulty breathing or loud snoring during sleep
- Aspiration – Choking on feedings or airway secretions, or inhaling a foreign object
- Micrognathia – Very small jaw that makes breathing and/or feeding difficult
- Pierre Robin syndrome – Congenital condition that includes micrognathia (or “small jaw”) and often a cleft palate
- Laryngomalacia – Floppiness of the voice box when breathing in, causing noisy breathing
- Vocal cord problems – Paralyzed or poorly functioning vocal cords
- Subglottic stenosis – Narrowing of the airway just below the vocal cords
- Tracheomalacia – Collapse or narrowing of the windpipe during breathing
- Complete tracheal rings – Abnormally small cartridge in the windpipe
- Bronchomalacia – Collapse or narrowing of the bronchi during breathing
- Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) – Frequent spitting up or heartburn caused by acid or food moving backwards from the stomach into the esophagus.
- Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) – Condition that may cause inflammation or irritation of the esophagus
Individualized, Coordinated, Multidisciplinary Care
When you choose UNC Children’s and the N.C. Children’s Airway Center, you benefit from our coordinated care designed to meet the needs of your child and your family. With our individualized approach to care, you may need fewer trips for outpatient clinic visits. If your child requires hospitalization, our multidisciplinary team will work together to coordinate procedures and make hospital stays as brief as possible.
Your child will be evaluated by multiple specialists who create individualized care plans. The Airway Center team meets regularly to discuss and review care plans as well as plan for future treatment.
We’ll also stay in close contact with your child’s primary care physician, specialty care providers and home- or school-based caregivers to ensure your child receives the most consistent and best care possible.
The Children’s Airway Center Team
Your child’s Airway Center care team consists of dedicated experts in multiple disciplines. Depending on your child’s specific condition, the team may include:
The Airway Center offers a full range of diagnostic, medical, and surgical services for children, teens, and young adults (to age 21), including:
- Sleep studies (polysomnography) – Records sleep state, breathing, and heart rate during sleep to detect and diagnose sleep disorders
- Pulmonary function tests – Precise measurements of how well the lungs work
- Endoscopic procedures – Examination of the airway or GI tract without surgery using the latest technology with small equipment designed specifically for infants and children
- Laryngoscopy – Examines the back of the throat, including the voice box (larynx)
- Bronchoscopy – Examines the entire airway from the nose to the bronchi
- Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) – Examines the esophagus, stomach and first part of the small intestine
- Modified barium swallow exam –X-ray exam to observe your child swallowing liquids or foods of various consistencies and textures, can be used to diagnose aspiration
- Esophageal pH/impedance monitoring – A sensor attached to a thin flexible plastic tube used to measure acid backing up from the stomach into the esophagus
- Surgical treatments
- Tracheostomy – Creating an opening in the windpipe and inserting a small plastic tube to improve breathing
- Endoscopic airway dilation – Opens a narrowed area of the windpipe without surgery
- Airway reconstruction – Surgical procedures that widen a narrowed part of the airway
- Mandibular distraction – A surgical procedure to increase the length of the jaw and improve breathing in children with micrognathia (or “small jaw”)
- Slide tracheoplasty – Surgical procedure to widen the windpipe in children with complete tracheal rings
- Vocal cord injection – Injecting a gel or paste into an immobile vocal cord to improve voice or swallowing ability
Tracheostomy and Home Mechanical Ventilator Care and Support
We have a team of specialists for children with tracheostomies and those using home-based CPAP, BiPAP, or mechanical ventilation.
Support for Parents & Family
Specialized support services and education from N.C. Children’s Airway Center staff help you provide the best home care for your child. Ask about:
- Home- and school-based caregiver education and training
- Information about home nursing needs
- Information about obtaining durable medical equipment and supplies
- Assistance accessing community resources
- Scheduling clinic appointments with multiple specialists on the same day
When your child is ready to transition to specialists who treat adults, count on our assistance and support to help you find the best care for your child.