Airway Obstruction Conditions and Treatments

Types of airway obstruction conditions

Blockage of the airway can occur in the lower airway or in the upper airway. Airway obstruction can be congenital (present at birth) or it can acquired later in life.

Lower airway obstructions are sometimes referred to as obstructive lung diseases. Lower airway obstruction condition occur when the vocal cords close or become narrow. This prevents the right amount of air inhaled in each breath and it also prevents the pulmonary arteries from receiving the right amount of oxygen. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a common type of lower airway obstruction.

Upper airway obstructions can be caused by a foreign body, tumor, inflammation, infection, injury or from a congenital condition. Croup, wheezing, laryngitis or difficulty breathing because of a swallowed or inhaled foreign object can cause an upper airway obstruction.

Airway obstruction treatments

At Henry Ford, we approach each patient and airway problem in a very individualized manner, tailoring the treatment to that patient.

Treatment of airway obstruction can include medication or surgery. The type of obstruction, its location and severity, as well as the patient’s overall health status and personal needs, will determine which approach is appropriate for that particular patient.

The three different types of surgery to release the airway obstruction are:

  1. Tracheotomy bypassing the obstruction
  2. Endoscopic opening of the airway
  3. Open reconstruction of the airway with either removal of the obstructed segment (tracheal resection) or enlarging of the obstructed segment with cartilage grafts (laryngotracheoplasty)
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