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Tracheomalacia and tracheobronchomalacia in adults

Adnan Majid, MD, FCCP
Section Editor
Praveen N Mathur, MB;BS
Deputy Editor
Geraldine Finlay, MD


Tracheomalacia (TM) refers to diffuse or segmental tracheal weakness [1]. There are two distinct anatomical forms, the cartilaginous malacia characterized by softening of the cartilage and the membranous malacia with excessive forward displacement of the membranous wall (also known as excessive dynamic airway collapse [EDAC]). Tracheobronchomalacia (TBM) exists when the weakness extends into one or both main stem bronchi. Both conditions result in exaggerated luminal narrowing during expiration and widening during inspiration [2-5].

We refer to TM and TBM collectively as TM in this review, since the conditions manifest similarly and the terms are frequently used interchangeably in practice. We distinguish between the disorders only when necessary.

The classification, epidemiology, histopathology, natural history, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of TM are reviewed here. Tracheomalacia in children is discussed separately. (See "Congenital anomalies of the intrathoracic airways and tracheoesophageal fistula".)


Several classification systems exist for tracheomalacia (TM):

TM can be classified according to the appearance of the trachea:

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jun 03, 2016.
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