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What are airway and digestive disorders?

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About aerodigestive disorders

Aerodigestive disorders are complex conditions that affect your child’s breathing, swallowing and eating.

Causes of aerodigestive disorders

Many aerodigestive disorders are congenital, meaning that children are born with the problem. Some of the conditions that can cause aerodigestive problems include:

  • Airway obstruction
  • Laryngomalacia
  • Pulmonary slings
  • Recurrent pneumonia
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Tracheal stenosis
  • Tracheal/esophageal fistula
  • Tracheomalacia
  • Vascular rings

Prevalence of aerodigestive disorders

Overall, these conditions are rare, and prevalence rates vary depending on your child’s specific disorder.

Development of aerodigestive disorders

Children born with aerodigestive disorders are usually diagnosed shortly after birth. These children often have complex medical issues. Breathing or swallowing issues may be diagnosed later.

Symptoms of aerodigestive disorders

Symptoms can vary depending on your child’s specific condition, but common symptoms include:

Risk of developing this condition

Children with aerodigestive disorders often have other medical conditions, including congenital heart disease and complex conditions such as genetic syndromes.

Concerns of aerodigestive disorders

These conditions can dramatically affect a child’s growth and quality of life due to recurring infections, repeated surgeries and hospitalizations. It can also make life difficult for both the child and parents if your child can’t eat with the rest of the family or keep up with other children while running or playing because of breathing concerns.

Diagnosis and evaluation of aerodigestive disorders

Our multidisciplinary team will take a complete medical history, review existing records, and perform a physical exam to evaluate your child’s upper and lower airway (trachea), swallowing tube (esophagus) and stomach (gastrointestinal tract). Diagnostic tests could include laryngoscopy, bronchoscopy, esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD), esophageal manometry, pH-impedance probe test, fiber optic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing, and a video fluoroscopy swallow study.

Treatment for aerodigestive disorders

Treatment varies depending on a child’s particular condition, but aerodigestive problems are usually managed through medication and surgical treatment.

After treatment

Length of treatment varies depending on the complexity of your child’s case, but our aerodigestive specialists often follow patients for years to ensure that they can continue to eat, swallow and breathe safely.

Contacting a physician

If you have any concerns about your child’s eating or breathing, talk to your pediatrician. He or she will refer you to an aerodigestive specialist if necessary.

Long-term outlook for aerodigestive disorders

The outlook depends on the complexity of your child’s condition. Our goal is to improve a child’s quality of life through safe feeding and reduced incidents of pneumonia and hospitalizations.

Living with aerodigestive disorders

Complex medical problems like aerodigestive disorders can be stressful for patients and their families. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you or your child needs help coping.

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