Congenital Laryngeal Stridor

What is congenital laryngeal stridor?

Congenital laryngeal stridor results from a congenital (present at birth) abnormality of the larynx (voice box). Stridor is a high-pitched sound that is best heard when the child breathes in. This indicates a partial obstruction in the upper airways. 

What causes congenital laryngeal stridor?

Congenital laryngeal stridor is caused by various defects that are present at birth. For example, in laryngomalacia, a weakness of the laryngeal structures causes them to collapse during breathing. In children, laryngomalacia is the most common cause of stridor. This particular issue resolves by 12 to 18 months, usually on its own.

What are the symptoms of congenital laryngeal stridor?

The major symptom of this disorder is the stridor that is heard as the infant breathes. The stridor is usually heard when the infant breathes in, but can also be heard when the infant breaths out. Other characteristics of the stridor may include:

  • The stridor changes with activity.

  • The stridor is present during different phases of alertness — eating, sleeping, or excitement.

  • The stridor is usually less noisy when the child is on his or her stomach.

  • The stridor gets worse if the infant has an upper respiratory infection.

The symptoms of congenital laryngeal stridor may look like other conditions or medical problems. Always talk with your child's health care provider for a diagnosis.

How is congenital laryngeal stridor diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, diagnostic procedures for congenital laryngeal stridor may include laryngoscopy or bronchoscopy of the airways. This is a procedure that involves a tube being passed into the airways to allow your child's health care provider to observe the airways during breathing.

Treatment for congenital laryngeal stridor

In most cases, congenital laryngeal stridor is a harmless condition that resolves on its own, without medical action. Each child's case is unique. A small percentage develop severe respiratory problems that need medical and surgical involvement.