Pediatric Airway Disorders

Glossary of Airway Disorders Terms

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Airway obstruction

A blockage of the breathing tube leading to the lungs.


The front, facing forward.


Temporary stoppage of breathing.


One of a pair of small, movable cartilages attached to the back of the larynx. When extended forward, they press on the vocal folds to help form speech.


Inhaling liquid or secretions into the lungs.



Removing a small sample of tissue to diagnose a condition.

Biphasic stridor

Noisy breathing that occurs when a child breathes in and breathes out.

Blue spells (see apnea)

A brief period (a minute or two) during which there is less blood flow to the lungs. During this time, the body receives less oxygen and the skin turns a bluish color.


Air tube that leads from the trachea (windpipe) to the lungs. Just above the lungs, it branches into a right and left air tube, to carry air through each lung.


A flexible tube used to examine the inside of the bronchi (air tubes going into the lungs). The bronchoscope is fitted with a small light and camera so the physician can view the airway on an external monitor. The tube also has attachments that allow the physician to take small samples of tissue for further examination.

Bronchoscopy (also see MLB)

Examination of the bronchi (main air tubes going into the lungs) using a rigid flexible tube (bronchosope) that has a tiny light and camera on the end.



Placing a tube into the airway to maintain breathing.

Capping trial

Placement of a cap over the top of a tracheostomy ("trach") tube allowing a child to breathe through the nose and mouth; used to assess a person's readiness to breathe without mechanical assistance.

Carbon dioxide laser (CO2 laser)

A surgical instrument which uses a laser beam to cut tissue.


Thick, flexible tissue that makes up the breathing tube and outer ear, and acts as cushioning between joints.


A bendable, hollow tube that can be inserted into the body to drain fluids.


Inflammation or infection of tissues under the skin of the neck or other area.

Chest tube

A hollow tube inserted into the chest to drain fluids.


Birth defect; a condition present at birth.

Cricoid cartilage

A ring of cartilage immediately above the trachea.


A viral infection that causes swelling of the airway below the vocal cords. This causes breathing problems and harsh, barking coughs.


A bluish skin coloration due to lack of oxygen in the blood.



Removal of a tracheostomy tube.


A separation of the layers of a surgical wound.


Drop in the amount of oxygen in the blood.


Gradual stretching of a constricted area.

Double staged reconstruction

A surgical repair of the airway requiring at least two planned surgeries.


A feeling that one can't breathe; difficult or labored breathing.


Difficulty swallowing.


EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy)

An examination of the esophagus, stomach and upper intestine done by a specialist.


A medical instrument composed of a hollow tube with a light and viewing lens at the end. Used to examine the inside of the body.


Viewing the inside of the body using an endoscope (a hollow tube with a light and viewing lens on the end).

Endotracheal tube

Breathing tube.

Esophageal atresia

A congenital condition in which the esophagus has a small opening or is missing an opening.


Inflammation of the esophagus (food pipe).


An examination of the esophagus with an endoscope.

Esophagus (food pipe)

The tube between the throat and the stomach that food passes through.


Removal of a breathing tube from the trachea (windpipe).


Flexible laryngoscopy

A diagnostic procedure in which a flexible camera is used to view the larynx (voice box).

Functional endoscopic evaluation of swallow (FEES)

A swallowing study in which a physician passes an flexible camera through the nose and views the throat and voice box while a patient swallows food and liquids. Used to evaluate swallowing problems.



A doctor who specializes in the study of the stomach and intestinal tract.

Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)

A condition in which acid from the stomach backs up into the esophagus.

GI tract

The digestive system; includes the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, intestines and anus.


Skin, cartilage, bone or other tissue taken from one part of the body to replace injured or diseased tissue in another part of the body.


Extra tissue that forms around the edges of a wound during healing or after an injury.


Hiatal hernia

A condition in which the upper part of the stomach pushes up through the diaphragm and into the chest.


Raspy voice.

Human papilloma virus (HPV)

A group of viruses that lead to warts (on the skin and in the airway).


Adding moisture to the air.


Inspiratory stridor (see stridor)

Noisy breathing that occurs when a person breathes in.


Insertion of a breathing tube into the trachea (windpipe).


Laryngeal atresia

A birth defect in which the vocal cords are partially or completely fused to each other.


Softening and floppiness of the airway structures above the vocal cords.


A thin, flexible tube with a light and viewing lens at the end that is used to view the larynx (voice box).


A diagnostic test that involves passing a laryngoscope through the nose into the upper throat to view the larynx (voice box). The laryngoscope has a camera lens and is attached to a viewing monitor. The laryngoscope may also have small tool attachments that can be used to take a biopsy.

Laryngotracheal reconstruction (LTR or LTP)

A surgical procedure to increase the diameter of the airway.

Laryngotracheal stenosis

Narrowing of the airway caused by a birth defect or injury from the cuff of a breathing tube.

Larynx (vocal folds)

The part of the airway that contains the vocal cords (also known as vocal folds).



An examination of the larynx (voice box) using an endoscope.

Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA)

A diagnostic test that takes a picture of the blood vessels using magnetic signals and a computer.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of a large magnet, radiofrequencies and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.


A rotating surgical tool used to remove injured or scarred tissue.

Microlaryngoscopy and bronchoscopy (MLB)

An examination of the larynx (voice box) and bronchi (air tubes going into the lungs) using an endoscope. Done under anesthesia in the operating room.

MLB (see microlaryngoscopy and bronchoscopy)

Modified barium swallow (MBS)

A diagnostic test in which fluoroscopic (real time, moving) pictures are take of the esophagus while a speech pathologist gives different food/liquid textures coated in barium. Done to evaluate swallowing and aspiration.


Nasal flaring

Widening of the nostrils while breathing, in an attempt to get more air.


Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)

A condition in which breathing stops for brief periods during sleep.


pH probe

A thin tube passed through the nose into the stomach to measure acid reflux over a 24-hour period.


Escape of air from the lungs into the space under the skin, which feels crackly to the touch.


Lung infection from viruses, bacteria or other irritants.


Lung puncture that causes air to escape the lungs and collect in the chest or sac between the lungs and the chest.

Portable oxygen

Oxygen in small canisters that people can carry with them outside of the home.


Back, facing rear.

Posterior graft

Reconstructive surgical procedure in which a flap of tissue or cartilage is attached to tissues in the back of the airway.


A specialist who treats diseases of the lungs.

Pulse oximetry

Measurement of oxygen saturation in the blood through a device that is clipped onto a fingertip.

Pulsed dye laser

A surgical instrument which uses a laser beam to operate on blood vessels.



Use of X-rays to create a still image of the inside of the body.

Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP)

Benign viral tumor of the larynx (voice box) that is the most common cause of hoarseness in children.


A backward flow, such as stomach acid backing up into the esophagus.


A pronounced drawing in of the chest or neck when breathing is difficult.


Speech pathologist

A specialist who treats speech and swallowing disorders.

Single staged reconstruction

Surgical repair of the airway done in one stage.

Speech pathologist

A therapist who helps treat speech, swallowing and voice disorders.




A tube that is inserted into a body part to keep it open.


A surgical opening in the neck through which a tracheostomy tube is connected.


Noisy breathing.

Subcutaneous emphysema

A condition in which air gets under the skin on the chest or neck and feels crackling to the touch.

Subglottic hemangioma

A congenital growth of blood vessels below the level of the vocal cords.

Subglottic stenosis

Narrowing of the subglottis, or area below the vocal cords.


Airway structures that sit above the vocal cords.


A surgical procedure in which extra tissues above the vocal cords are trimmed.


Thyroid cartilage

Cartilage that covers the Larynx (voice box ) on the front of the airway.


The windpipe; a cartilage tube that sits between the larynx (voice box) and the bronchi (tubes that go into the lungs).

Tracheal resection (see crichotracheal resection)

A surgical procedure in which a damaged section of the trachea is removed and the ends of the trachea are reconnected.

Tracheal rings

C-shaped cartilages that make up the windpipe.

Tracheal stenosis

Narrowing of the windpipe.

Tracheocutaneous fistula (TCF)

An opening in the neck following the removal of a tracheostomy ("trach") tube.


Softening of the trachea (windpipe).


Surgically placing a breathing tube into the windpipe to bypass an obstruction.


Vocal chords (or vocal folds)

The white v-shaped structures of the voice box that help generate sound and protect the windpipe from inhalation injury.



A period of tremors, irritability and agitation that can develop after being on sedating medications for a period of time.



A diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of bones, tissues and organs onto film.

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