Laryngeal cleft is a condition in which two tube-like structures in the throat, the larynx (voice box) and the esophagus (food pipe), are developed together rather than separately as a baby develops. This malformation therefore leads to complications with breathing and swallowing at birth. Signs and symptoms of laryngeal cleft include coughing, wheezing, repeated lung infection, and/or difficulty feeding. There are four main types of this condition, based on location and severity of the malformation. Type I is the mildest form of laryngeal cleft, characterized by a cleft (opening) between the structures at a higher location in the throat. Children affected by this type may not be diagnosed until later in childhood and experience minor symptoms. Type II clefts are located closer to the voice box and type III clefts are located closer to the windpipe. Type IV is the most severe form of laryngeal cleft, characterized by a large opening along the windpipe. Types III and IV may lead to major respiratory complications closely following birth, such as repeated cases of pneumonia and large volumes of mucus in the lungs.
The specific causes for laryngeal cleft are unknown, although it is known to primarily occur within the first few months of pregnancy. This condition is diagnosed at birth with medical procedures that utilize telescopes to look at the involved structures in the throat and neck. Treatment options for this condition vary based on the type of laryngeal cleft diagnosed. If your child is affected by laryngeal cleft, it is important to speak with a doctor about necessary medications and treatment. Support groups are also a great resource for support and information.
Description Last Updated: Jul 13, 2020