Pathophysiology and diagnostic approach to laryngomalacia in infants

Eur Ann Otorhinolaryngol Head Neck Dis. 2012 Oct;129(5):257-63. doi: 10.1016/j.anorl.2012.03.005. Epub 2012 Oct 15.


Laryngomalacia is defined as collapse of supraglottic structures during inspiration. It is the most common laryngeal disease of infancy. Laryngomalacia presents in the form of stridor, a high-pitched, musical, vibrating, multiphase inspiratory noise appearing within the first 10 days of life. Signs of severity are present in 10% of cases: poor weight gain (probably the most contributive element), dyspnoea with permanent and severe intercostal or xyphoid retraction, episodes of respiratory distress, obstructive sleep apnoea, and/or episodes of suffocation while feeding or feeding difficulties. The diagnosis is based on systematic office flexible laryngoscopy to confirm laryngomalacia and exclude other causes of supraglottic obstruction. Rigid endoscopy under general anaesthesia is only performed in the following cases: absence of laryngomalacia on flexible laryngoscopy, presence of laryngomalacia with signs of severity, search for any associated lesions prior to surgery, discrepancy between the severity of symptoms and the appearance on flexible laryngoscopy, and/or atypical symptoms (mostly aspirations). The work-up must be adapted to each child; however, guidelines recommend objective respiratory investigations in infants presenting signs of severity.

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Failure to Thrive / etiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Laryngomalacia / complications
  • Laryngomalacia / diagnosis*
  • Laryngomalacia / physiopathology*
  • Laryngoscopy* / instrumentation
  • Laryngoscopy* / methods
  • Respiratory Sounds / etiology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / etiology