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Balloon Dilation of the Airway

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Why does my child need airway balloon dilation?

Balloon dilation is recommended for children who have narrowing of their airway causing difficulty breathing.  This occurs most often in children who were born premature but can happen in other children as well. 

How is balloon dilation performed?

Balloon dilation is performed by a pediatric ear, nose, and throat surgeon.  Using an endoscopic (long, thin tube) camera inserted through the mouth, the surgeon will inspect and take digital images of your child’s airway.  If the airway is narrowed a special balloon is inserted into the area of narrowing. The balloon is then expanded in order to enlarge the narrow airway.  After a short period of time, balloon is deflated and removed.  Sometimes other procedures are performed at the same time to help prevent or delay the narrowing from recurring. 

This procedure is performed in a hospital operating room and requires general anesthesia. This means your child will be fully asleep and carefully monitored during this procedure. You will have a chance to talk with the anesthesiologist on the day of surgery to discuss any questions you may have about the safety and risks of anesthesia.

Are there any instructions I need to follow before surgery?

Your child must have a physical examination by his or her pediatrician or family doctor within 30 days before surgery. The doctor you see needs to complete the History and Physical form provided by our office. You must bring the completed form with you the day of surgery. For your child's safety, it is very important that he or she have an empty stomach when anesthesia is given. Please follow Children’s Minnesota Eating and Drinking Guidelines. If you do not follow these guidelines, your child's surgery will be cancelled.

What can I expect after surgery?

The procedure itself usually takes  30-45 minutes. Your child will wake up in the recovery room after surgery. Waking up usually takes 20 to 30 minutes. When your child is awake, they will be taken to the discharge area to complete the recovery. You can be with your child once he or she has been transferred to the discharge area.

  • Your child may have a low-grade fever (99° to 100°F) for a day or two after surgery.
  • Fevers up to 102.0 F are considered normal after surgery. Call your provider for fevers over 102.0 F that do not come down with acetaminophen (Tylenol) and/or Ibuprofen 
  • Your child may have a sore throat the day of surgery. This is caused by the balloon dilation. You can treat this short-term discomfort with Tylenol® (acetaminophen) or Children's Motrin® (ibuprofen).
  • You will get a Discharge Instructions sheet before you go home which will indicate how much medicine to give and how often.
  • You can expect your child to be back to his or her regular diet and activities within 24 hours after surgery.


The information provided in this brochure is not specific to your child. This information is provided as a service to our patients. The information is for educational and informational purposes only and should NOT be used as a substitute for the advice of your child’s physician.

If you have any questions, please call Children’s ENT and Facial Plastic Surgery Clinic.

Reviewed 10/2022

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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