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Laryngomalacia Clinical Presentation

  • Author: Stephanie Lovinsky-Desir, MD; Chief Editor: Denise Serebrisky, MD  more...
Updated: Jun 18, 2015


The usual history in patients with laryngomalacia is of inspiratory noises that begin during the first 2 months of life. Sounds typically start at age 4-6 weeks, but they may begin in the nursery or as late as age 2-3 months.

  • Noises are inspiratory and may sound like nasal congestion, with which they are initially confused. However, the noises persist and no nasal secretions are present. The noise may be more high pitched, crowing stridor.
  • Noise is often increased when the baby is supine, during crying or agitation, during upper respiratory infection episodes, and, in some cases, during and after feeding.
  • The baby's cry is usually normal, unless concomitant reflux laryngitis is present.
  • Usually, no feeding intolerance is noted, although occasional choking or coughing with feedings may be noted if the baby has reflux.
  • The infant is usually happy and thriving.


Upon examination, the baby is usually happy and appropriately interactive.

  • Mild tachypnea may be present.
  • Other vital signs are normal, and oxygen saturation is usually normal.
  • One can usually detect nasal airflow. The noise may be increased if the baby is placed supine.
  • The cry is normal. Hearing the baby's cry during the examination is important. An abnormal cry suggests pathology at or near the vocal cords.
  • The noise is purely inspiratory. The sounds may best be heard just above the sternal notch.
  • The rest of the examination findings are unremarkable, although another airway lesion may also be present in infants with laryngomalacia.[2]

A study found that because laryngomalacia may present primarily with snoring and/or sleep-disordered breathing and swallowing dysfunction in a significant proportion of children, the diagnosis must be considered in children, older than 3 months, presenting with these upper airway complaints.[3, 4]



Laryngomalacia is a congenital abnormality of the larynx. The pathology is unknown. In cases in which redundant or tight tissue has been removed, it is histologically indistinct from normal tissue.

No genetic pattern is known.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Stephanie Lovinsky-Desir, MD Assistant Professor in Pediatric Pulmonology, Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

Stephanie Lovinsky-Desir, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Thoracic Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Mary L Windle, PharmD Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Charles Callahan, DO Professor, Chief, Department of Pediatrics and Pediatric Pulmonology, Tripler Army Medical Center

Charles Callahan, DO is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Chest Physicians, American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians, American Thoracic Society, Association of Military Surgeons of the US, Christian Medical and Dental Associations

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Denise Serebrisky, MD Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Director, Division of Pulmonary Medicine, Lewis M Fraad Department of Pediatrics, Jacobi Medical Center/North Central Bronx Hospital; Director, Jacobi Asthma and Allergy Center for Children, Jacobi Medical Center

Denise Serebrisky, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Thoracic Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Michael R Bye, MD Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, State University of New York at Buffalo School of Medicine; Attending Physician, Pediatric Pulmonary Division, Women's and Children's Hospital of Buffalo

Michael R Bye, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Chest Physicians, American Thoracic Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Laryngomalacia: The epiglottis is small and curled on itself (omega-shaped). Approximation of the posterior edges of the epiglottis contributes to the inspiratory obstruction. (From B Benjamin, Atlas of Paediatric Endoscopy, Oxford University Press, NY, 1981, with permission.)
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