What is supraglottoplasty?

This is a very common operation that we frequently do at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford’s Aerodigestive and Airway Reconstruction Center.

The procedure is done to correct airway problems, in particular to treat laryngomalacia. Some babies are born with this condition, which causes floppy tissue on top of the larynx to fall into the airway when a child breathes in, causing noisy breathing (called stridor).

When babies have laryngomalacia, they may also have associated feeding, swallowing, and reflux problems that can affect their growth. The surgery can greatly improve breathing, eating, and sleeping.

What are the treatment options for children with laryngomalacia?

Parents of children with laryngomalacia may be told that their baby will never be able to eat or that they need a tracheotomy. However, we find that this is almost never the case. Babies generally outgrow this condition, so our focus is often on keeping young children safe and healthy until they outgrow the problem. About 40% of our patients only need to be followed closely through our clinic. Another 40% of children need medication treatment to reduce acid production to control reflux, which allows them to feed and breathe more easily. Only about 20% need a surgery called supraglottoplasty.

We are pleased to give second opinions to parents who are looking at treatment options for their child.

What happens during the procedure?

  • This surgery is performed through the mouth, so incisions aren’t made on the outside of the body.
  • We use general anesthesia, usually with the child breathing on his or her own and without a breathing tube.
  • The excess tissue at the top of the voice box (larynx) is trimmed to make more room for air to pass through to the trachea.
  • It is a short procedure that takes about 15 minutes.

What is the long-term outlook after surgery?