Complex Airway Reconstruction Program

Complex airway disorders make it difficult to breathe, swallow or speak. These disorders can affect your larynx (voice box), trachea (windpipe) or pharynx (back of the mouth and nose).  

Our specialists in the Complex Airway Reconstruction Program have the expertise to accurately evaluate, diagnose and treat a wide array of complex airway disorders. Our comprehensive team works with you to develop a personalized care plan, so you can breathe, swallow and speak with ease.

Complex Airway Reconstruction: Why Choose Vanderbilt

  • High volume of procedures: In 2017, our team performed more than 400 adult and pediatric procedures to treat laryngeal (voice box) and tracheal (windpipe) conditions. As one of the busiest complex airway reconstruction programs in the nation, our high volume of procedures translates into expert care for you.
  • A team of experts: At Vanderbilt, you have a comprehensive care team. Our surgeons work with expert anesthesiologists, pulmonologists, gastroenterologists, speech pathologists, nutritionists and nurse practitioners to develop the most effective care plan for you.
  • Surgical expertise: Our skilled surgeons use advanced technology and techniques to rebuild your larynx (voice box) and trachea (windpipe). They are uniquely trained to perform minimally invasive (endoscopic) procedures and open reconstructive surgery.
  • Specialized care: Our team will tailor your care plan based on your diagnosis, specific healthcare needs and personal preferences.
  • Expert second opinion: We provide second opinions to help you make more informed and confident decisions. Our informed opinion takes your medical history, tests, treatments and personal preferences into account. To learn more about a second opinion, call (615) 343-0540.
  • Innovative research: Vanderbilt is an international leader in the study of complex airway disorders. Our research team collaborates with surgeons across the world to pioneer new surgical treatments.
  • Coordinated care: A dedicated patient care coordinator will support and guide you through the treatment and recovery process. Our care coordinator can assist with scheduling appointments or tests, gathering medical records or obtaining insurance authorizations. Together, we can help answer your questions, address concerns and connect you to therapy or support groups.
  • Responsive team: We want to make your experience as seamless and stress-free as possible. You can contact your team 24/7 through our secure online portal, My Health at Vanderbilt

Complex Airway Reconstruction: Conditions We Treat

Our highly skilled specialists diagnose and treat common and rare airway disorders including:

  • Bronchial stenosis
  • Congenital airway abnormalities
  • Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener's)
  • Idiopathic subglottic stenosis
  • Laryngeal burns
  • Laryngeal stenosis
  • Laryngomalacia
  • Laryngotracheal clefts
  • Relapsing polychondritis
  • Subglottic stenosis
  • Tracheal burns
  • Tracheal stenosis
  • Tracheobronchomalacia
  • Tracheostomy care
  • Vocal cord paralysis

Complex Airway Reconstruction: Treatments We Offer

Treatment for complex airway disorders may include:

  • Endoscopic dilation: This minimally invasive procedure allows a surgeon to use a dilating balloon to stretch the narrowed portion of your esophagus. The surgeon performs this procedure through the mouth. It does not require an external incision.
  • Endoscopic resection (Maddern procedure): A less invasive procedure to remove scar tissue from the lining of your trachea (windpipe). Your airway lining is replaced and secured with a plastic tube (stent). The stent is removed after two weeks. This procedure will help keep your airway open and prevent further scarring.
  • Vocal cord lateralization: This is a minimally invasive surgery to open one of your vocal cords. During the procedure, a surgeon will move one vocal cord to the side. This provides more space between the vocal cords, allowing you to breathe easier.
  • Supraglottoplasty: A less invasive surgery to correct obstructive tissue above your larynx (voice box). A surgeon performs this procedure through the mouth. It does not require an external incision.
  • Cricotracheal resection: A complex procedure to remove scar tissue below the vocal cords (an area called the subglottis). A surgeon removes a portion of the narrowed airway and moves the trachea (windpipe) to connect it to the larynx.
  • Laryngotracheal reconstruction: During this procedure, your surgeon will place a small piece of cartilage in the narrowed portion of your trachea (windpipe). This surgery will make your trachea wider, allowing you to breathe easier. 
  • Slide tracheoplasty: For this procedure, a surgeon opens the back portion of the lower trachea (windpipe) and the front portion of the upper trachea (windpipe). The surgeon slides the open ends of your trachea into each other and connects them. The procedure doubles the width of your trachea to help improve breathing.
  • Tracheal resection: A complex procedure to remove scar tissue in your trachea (windpipe). A surgeon will remove the blocked segment of the trachea and stitch the two healthy ends of your trachea together.
  • Microvascular tissue reconstruction: In this procedure, a surgeon reconstructs severe defects in your airway. The surgeon will transfer healthy tissue to the part of your airway that needs reconstructed. A microscope will help the surgeon connect your blood supply to the transferred tissue.
  • Vocal cord (recurrent laryngeal nerve) reinnervation: In this procedure, a surgeon attaches the damaged right recurrent laryngeal nerve to the Ansa Cervicalis nerve. This will send improved movement signals to the paralyzed vocal cord. After the procedure, it may take several months for your voice to improve. An injectable filler can offer temporary improvement. 
  • Vocal cord medialization: A procedure to reposition your paralyzed or scarred vocal cord, giving you a stronger voice. A surgeon will place a non-absorbable implant in your larynx (voice box) to push your paralyzed vocal cord toward the middle of your larynx.
  • Laryngeal microsurgery: For this procedure, a surgeon will use an endoscope (a flexible tube with a light and camera) and a surgical microscope to see a magnified view of your larynx (voice box). The surgeon will use special instruments and surgical lasers to remove scar tissue or other lesions from your vocal cords. 

Complex Airway Reconstruction: Locations

Vanderbilt Voice Center
Medical Center East, South Tower
1215 21st Ave., S., Suite 7302
Nashville, TN 37232
Map and Directions

Vanderbilt Children’s Complex AeroDigestive Evaluation Team (CADET)
Doctors' Office Tower, 10th Floor
2200 Children's Way
Nashville, TN 37232
Map and Directions

Complex Airway Reconstruction: Providers

Complex Airway Reconstruction: Contact Us

Our dedicated patient care coordinator can assist you with a referral. To reach our care coordinator, call (615) 343-0540.