Subglottic Cysts

What are subglottic cysts?

Subglottic cysts are almost always associated with a period of intubation and may obstruct most of the airway beneath the larynx. They may occur as one or multiple small cysts often filled with clear or tan fluid. Subglottic stenosis is commonly associated with subglottic cysts.

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Stridor
  • Respiratory distress
  • Recurrent croup

Testing and diagnosis

subglottic cysts Endoscopic view of multiple subglottic cysts. There are a few different methods your doctor might use to diagnose subglottic cysts:

  • Endoscopy is the key for diagnosis and immediate treatment.
  • Lateral neck X-ray is also very useful in diagnosing subglottic cysts.
  • Flexible laryngoscopy in the outpatient office may also reveal these lesions.


A microdebrider excision of a subglottic cyst.

To treat a subglottic cyst, the doctor will remove the wall of the cyst during endoscopy using either a CO2 laser or a microdebrider. When the side wall is removed fluid will come out immediately, deflating the cyst. Your child will likely be watched overnight in the hospital in case there is any airway swelling.

There is a small chance that cysts will recur after they're deflated, so your child should be scoped again a few months later.


Ransom ER, Antunes MB, Smith LP, Jacobs IN. Microdebrider resection of acquired subglottic cysts: Case series and review of the literature. Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2009 Dec;73(12):1833-6. Epub 2009 Oct 17.