Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and laryngomalacia are two different entities. Occasionally, they may have a common etiology: an elongated, flaccid, and lax epiglottis that is displaced posteriorly during inspiration causing airway obstruction. Twenty-seven adults with a diagnosis of airway obstruction or OSA of various degrees, and 12 infants with severe stridor associated with frequent apneas due to laryngomalacia, who on fiberoptic examination were found to have a posteriorly displaced epiglottis, underwent partial epiglottidectomy with a CO2 laser. Their postoperative recovery was uneventful. Polysomnographic studies performed after operation in the adult patients demonstrated statistically significant improvement in 85% of the patients. In all the cases of laryngomalacia, stridor ceased permanently after surgery, together with complete cessation of the apneic episodes. This study demonstrates that similar pathophysiological mechanisms may be involved in both laryngomalacia and in OSA. Effective and relatively safe treatment can be achieved by partial resection of the epiglottis with a microlaryngoscopic CO2 laser.
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