Acquired laryngomalacia: Epiglottis prolapse as a cause of airway obstruction

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Epiglottis prolapse during inspiration is an unusual cause of upper airway obstruction. It occurs primarily in patients who have lost pharyngeal airway support because of previous surgery or after head injury and coma. Eight cases of epiglottis prolapse are presented. One patient had epiglottis prolapse after resection of floor of mouth cancer and another after laryngeal fracture. The rest of the cases were seen in patients recovering from head injury and coma. Videolaryngoscopy shows the larynx to assume an ovoid shape within the pharynx. There is loss of the usual anterior to posterior pharyngeal and laryngeal dimension. The epiglottis is in a more horizontal position at rest. During inspiration, the epiglottis prolapses into the endolarynx, causing subtotal airway obstruction. Laryngeal obstruction due to epiglottis prolapse can prevent decannulation in the head-injured and can be the cause of obstructive sleep apnea. Endoscopic carbon dioxide laser epiglottectomy was successful in management of these cases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)314-320
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1992
Externally publishedYes


  • acquired laryngomalacia
  • airway obstruction
  • epiglottis prolapse


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