Upper Airway Disorders

Upper Airway Disorders

Anatomy of the Problem

Airway stenosis (abnormal narrowing) is rare within the general population. If you suffer from stenosis of the larynx or the upper trachea, come see our experts at Emory Voice Center. Patients choose us because of our experience and expertise. Airway stenosis can involve many anatomic locations. Most of the issues we see involve stenosis of the larynx or the upper trachea.

Causes or Contributing Factors

Many factors cause or contribute to narrowing of the airway. Airway trauma is one cause, (usually from have a breathing tube in the airway for a prolonged time frame). A tracheotomy in the past is often a contributing factor. A history of autoimmune conditions may also contribute. Relevant conditions include sarcoidosis, amyloidosis, rheumatoid arthritis or granulomatosis with polyangiitis. Our expertise and experience helps us identify the cause of the stenosis and improve your breathing.


Most of our airway patients note difficulty breathing, especially when exerting themselves. Noisy breathing is also common, and we often hear family members describe patients breathing as loudly “as a freight train.” Many patients have seen multiple types of physicians and undergone multiple treatment regimens without improvement.

Common Conditions

Upper airway disorders include:

  • Subglottic stenosis
  • Tracheal stenosis
  • Posterior glottic stenosis
  • Bilateral vocal fold paralysis
  • Supraglottic stenosis


After seeing multiple physicians and trying several treatment regimens, many patients become frustrated. Don't lose hope. Available treatment options vary based on the underlying cause and severity of the narrowing. We may recommend observation, medical treatment, surgery, or a combination of medical and surgical intervention. In surgical cases, we can often perform surgery through the mouth with no external surgical incisions.


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