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Subglottic Stenosis

Subglottic stenosis is a condition in which the area immediately below the vocal folds is narrowed.

Symptoms of subglottic stenosis include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty walking up stairs
  • Trouble “catching breath” especially with exertion
  • Noisy breathing

Subglottic stenosis can occur due to a number of reasons, including:

  • Intubation, or placement of a breathing tube
  • Wegener’s GranulomatosisTrauma
  • Inflammatory diseases
  • Tumor
  • Cancer
  • Idiopathic (unknown)


Diagnosis of subglottic stenosis may be challenging as patients may be treated for many other disease including asthma and bronchitis before the correct diagnosis of subglottic stenosis is made. Typically the diagnosis is made by an x-ray such at a CT which demonstrates narrowing of the airway.

However, at the University of California Irvine Medical Center, we are equipped with state-of-the-art technology which allows for diagnosis without the use of x-rays or radiation.

Dr. Verma is able to performing an in-office airway examination without the need for sedation or general anesthesia. Using only topical numbing medication, Dr Verma is able to examine the vocal cords, subglottis, and trachea of a patient using a small camera which is passed through the nose. Examinations are recorded so that findings can be reviewed with patients immediately after the procedure.


Treatment for subglottic stenosis is necessary when the degree of stenosis affects an individual's ability to breathe. A quick outpatient procedure involves dilating the airway using specially designed balloons which widen the airway in a minimally invasive fashion. Medication is applied to the area of stenosis to prevent scar from reforming.

In cases where balloon dilation is unable to treat a patient's symptoms, different surgeries are able to be performed. One such surgery is a tracheal resection, in which the narrow portion of the airway is removed. A laryngotracheal reconstruction is a procedure in which cartilage is used to add circumference to the airway and stent the airway open.

For an appointment with our airway surgeon and director of the University Voice and Swallowing Center, Dr. Sunil Verma, please call 714.456.7017.