Complete Tracheal Rings

The trachea (windpipe) is made up of cartilage, which is also called tracheal rings.  Normally, tracheal rings are “C” shaped.   Complete tracheal rings are “O” shaped.  The “O”-shaped rings are always smaller than the normal “C” shape. 

Complete tracheal rings are a rare condition present at birth.  It is usually associated with other vascular (blood vessel), heart, or lung abnormalities.

Children with complete tracheal rings have noisy breathing which gets worse over time.  Typically, their breathing sounds like a “washing machine”  because of the noise made when they breathe in and out. 

Some children may have to work harder to breathe, causing a sucking in around their ribs and chest (called retractions).  Some children may also have trouble with feeding.  Colds or respiratory illness can also make breathing worse.

Complete tracheal rings are diagnosed with a microlaryngoscopy and bronchoscopy.  Sometimes the child may need other X-rays or tests to evaluate for other vascular (blood vessel), heart, or lung abnormalities. 

Some children, who have few symptoms, do not need surgery.  These children are watched regularly for airway growth or any changes in their symptoms.  Most children will develop symptoms as the body grows, but the airway stays the same size.  They will need to have surgery to make their airway bigger.  This surgery is called a slide tracheoplasty

Call your doctor if your child is having any breathing difficulty.


Last Updated 09/2014