Airway and Digestive Center tests, treatments and services

The range of tests and treatments available to your child within the Airway and Digestive Center at Children's falls into four general categories:

Airway evaluation

Upper airway evaluation at Children’s

Our team will perform an evaluation of your child’s upper airway in instances where an airway obstruction is suspected. Upper airway evaluations can also help diagnose problems with the vocal folds problems that may relate to feeding or breathing issues.

Our team uses a number of diagnostic imaging tools to determine your child’s specific condition. These tools are used in conjunction with a physical examination provided by one of our airway experts.

Laryngoscopy

This tool has proven valuable to our team in getting a closer look at the structures of the upper airway in the office. A small flexible tube with a tiny camera is used to look inside the nose and back of the throat. Technicians can also see in real time the movements to the vocal folds. With this information, the team can make recommendations for further treatment.

Upper airway treatments

A number of effective treatments for upper airway conditions are in regular use at Children’s These include:

  • Pediatric phonosurgery - to correct conditions of the vocal folds
  • Airway tumor resection - to remove any obstructive tumors in the airway
  • Laryngoplasty - surgically treats paralyzed or poorly functioning vocal folds
  • Surgery for airway obstructions - by removal of tissue blocking the airway
  • Vocal fold injections - to treat damaged vocal folds
  • Non-surgical sleep apnea treatments - including sleep therapy and special sleeping masks

Lower airway evaluation

About lower airway evaluation at Children’s

The Children’s team commonly begins your child’s lower airway evaluation with a flexible bronchoscopy. This minimally invasive procedure allows our team to get a closer look at your child’s lower airway passages. During the procedure, a thin, flexible tube fitted with a small camera is inserted into your child’s nose and down into the trachea and bronchi.

Lower airway treatments

Conditions affecting the lower airway sometimes require surgery. For these surgeries, your child will be referred to the Tracheal Disorders Program at Children’s. The Tracheal Disorders team performs the following procedures:

  • Tracheal resection - to repair tracheal/bronchial stenosis
  • Tracheopexy - to repair tracheal/bronchial malacia 
  • Vascular ring revision surgery
  • Surgical repair of pulmonary artery sling

Read more about tracheal surgery at Children’s>>

Feeding and swallowing evaluation

About feeding and swallowing evaluation at Children’s

The feeding team is a related interdisciplinary program that can comprehensively assess and manage children with feeding problems. Feeding issues are generally related to the inability, or impaired ability of your child to swallow properly. In order to diagnose the specific feeding and/or swallowing problem affecting your child, Children’s uses a number of diagnostic tests. These tests include:

  • Fiber optic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing. In this procedure, a small tube is inserted into your child’s nose. On the end of the tube is a small camera. Once the camera is in place, your child will be given items to eat or drink. While your child ingests the items, our technicians can see, in real time, exactly how your child’s swallowing muscles function.
  • Video fluoroscopy swallow study. This test uses x-ray images of your child swallowing to get a better understanding of underlying swallowing conditions.

Feeding and swallowing treatments

Once a determination has been made as to the cause of your child’s feeding issue, whether it is swallowing related or not, our team will prescribe a course of treatment. Treatment might involve a feeding team consultation.

Esophageal and gastrointestional evaluation

About digestive evaluation at Children’s

The Children’s team has many techniques available to evaluate your child’s digestive system. 

  • Esophagogastroduodenoscopy. In this minimally invasive procedure, a flexible endoscopic tube is placed into your child’s mouth. The tube, fitted with a camera, is capable of reaching all parts of the upper gastrointestinal tract. The tool is useful for the diagnosis of ulcers, tumors and esophageal obstructions, among other conditions.
  • Manometry. This procedure studies the levels of pressure inside your child’s digestive system, usually the esophagus. This information is critical to understanding some underlying causes of nausea, indigestion and other digestive issues.

Saliva control program

The saliva control program provides a multidisciplinary assessment of children with saliva control problems caused by oral motor dysfunction, ear, nose and throat problems, neurologic problems, dental problems or structural problems.

Velocardiofacial syndrome program

The Velocardiofacial syndrome (VCFS) program at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin is the only clinic of its type in Wisconsin treating children with VCFS. The VCFS Clinic is designed to address the various medical, educational, and psychosocial needs of children and their families with VCFS.

Voice program

Children with voice disturbances impacting their breathing and or voice may benefit from the multidisciplinary support including laryngologists and speech and language pathologists. The Voice program at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin provides and coordinates the full range of services these children and adolescents need for proper diagnosis and effective treatment.