Choanal Atresia

What is it?

Choanal atresia is a congenital (from birth) condition where the passageway from the nose to the throat is narrowed or blocked, causing breathing problems. Because babies' still-developing airways cause them to rely mostly on their noses for breathing, choanal atresia can be a very serious problem. The cause isn't known but the condition occurs more frequently in girls than boys. In some cases, choanal atresia is accompanied by other congenital problems.

What are the symptoms?

If the choanal atresia is severe, infants may need to be resuscitated at delivery and may require intubation (the placement of a breathing tube in the throat.) In other cases, babies have difficulty nursing because they can't breathe through their noses while feeding.

In less severe cases of choanal atresia, the problem may not be diagnosed until the child is older. In these cases, children may have persistent mucous discharge from one side of the nose. They may snore or have extra trouble breathing at night.

What is the treatment?

In some cases, surgery can be delayed if an infant is able to breathe sufficiently through the mouth. In other cases, surgery needs to be done more quickly. Often the surgery can be performed through the nose or mouth.

About surgery for choanal atresia at Children's

The ENT surgery team at Children's provides next-generation care to neonatal infants, newborns, children, and adolescents from throughout the Upper Midwest. This multidisciplinary team provides some of the most cutting-edge, delicate treatments available, including newborn surgery and minimally invasive surgery. Otolaryngology surgery is performed at Children's - Minneapolis, Children's - St. Paul, and Children's West.

If you are a family member looking for a Children's ENT specialist, visit Find a Doctor.

If you are a health professional looking for a consultation or referral information, please call Children's Physician Referral at 1-866-755-2121 (toll-free).

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