What is subglottic stenosis?
Subglottic stenosis occurs when the area of the windpipe below the vocal folds, known as the subglottis, narrows, usually because of scar tissue. This narrowing often affects breathing.
What are the symptoms of subglottic stenosis?
The most common symptom of this condition is stridor, which is a high-pitched noise. It occurs when one breathes in or out. A shortness of breath when exercising or exerting oneself is another symptom. Less common effects include voice changes, increased mucus production, and a persistent cough.
What causes subglottic stenosis?
Intubation is the most common cause of subglottic stenosis, as it can cause scarring in the windpipe. Other trauma to the subglottis, whether it is due to an autoimmune disorder or idiopathic, may also cause this condition. Gastrointestinal reflux may also contribute to subglottic stenosis, as it can cause inflammation and scarring in the windpipe.
How is subglottic stenosis diagnosed?
A diagnosis for this condition is usually delayed, as the symptoms may lead doctors to believe asthma is the cause.
Subglottic stenosis is usually diagnosed after a pulmonary functions test, in which doctors evaluate how much air one can breathe in and out. A diagnosis can be confirmed through a CT scan or putting a camera into the trachea.
What are the treatments for subglottic stenosis?
The least invasive and most common form of treatment is an endoscopic dilation, which widens the narrowed section of the subglottis. Doctors can use various methods to widen the area, such as balloons, lasers, metal scopes, or stents.
In more severe cases of subglottic stenosis other procedures are options, such as cricotracheal resection or a tracheotomy. The former is when an incision is made in the neck so that a doctor can remove the narrowed section and sew the ends of the airway back together. The latter is when a breathing tube is placed below the narrowed section.