Tracheomalacia means a floppy trachea. The trachea is the windpipe, going from the voice box in the neck down to the lungs in the chest. In addition to being floppy, the trachea can also be narrowed; this is called tracheal stenosis.
Children with tracheomalacia may have breathing problems (occasionally life-threatening episodes), stridor, cough, or recurrent chestiness. To make the diagnosis, airway evaluation in theatre under general anaesthetic will be required.
It is important to know why tracheomalacia has occurred. Often it will be related to another condition, called tracheo-oesophageal fistula; this is an abnormal hole between the windpipe and the gullet, and requires emergency surgery when the baby is born. Tracheomalacia can also be caused by problems around the heart, or with the blood vessels near-by travelling to the heart and lungs.
Often no treatment is required, as with age the condition improves. If severe, management options include tracheostomy, breathing help using ventilator machines to deliver extra air and oxygen to the lungs, and surgery to correct the floppiness and narrowing.
Tracheomalacia is a complex condition, and therefore usually managed in specialist centres.