Choanal atresia is a defect that occurs when the nasal passage does not form properly. This is a serious condition that requires surgery in order to fix the issue. If your baby has been diagnosed with choanal atresia, the following information will help you better understand the problem, and what to expect during treatment.
Causes of Choanal Atresia
Choanal atresia is a congenital defect that results in an infant being unable to breathe through his or her nose. This condition is the result of a nasal obstruction that occurs when a membrane in the nose is not formed. This membrane should be formed at the beginning of the third trimester of pregnancy, and allows newborns to breathe properly through the nose. The actual cause of choanal atresia is not known, but it does affect around 1 in 5,000 babies each year.
Some babies may have bilateral atresia, which is when both sides of the nasal passage are blocked. This is the most serious form of the condition, and can result in death if the baby does not receive attention, or learn to breathe through his or her mouth.
Unilateral atresia occurs when only one side of the nasal passage is blocked. This form allows the baby to breathe through one side of the nose, making this a much less dangerous form of the condition.
Symptoms of Choanal Atresia
The diagnosis of choanal atresia often depends on the form that is present. Infants that have bilateral choanal atresia have immediate difficulty breathing after birth. Newborns and infants up to 8 weeks old only know how to breathe through their noses, which is what makes this such a dangerous condition. Infants who have the bilateral form of choanal atresia can only breathe when they cry, which can help the baby to learn how to breathe through the mouth more quickly.
Most cases of complete nasal blockages are diagnosed at birth due to the baby’s inability to breathe on his or her own. However, if your baby has a blockage on only one side of the nasal cavity, it can be more difficult to detect. If you think that your baby may have this problem, you can place a mirror in front of the baby’s nose while it is sleeping. If you only notice a mist pattern on one side of the nose, or if one pattern appears much larger than the other side, you should check with your doctor about further testing. It is always a good idea to complete this at-home test more than once to make sure the issue is not related to simple congestion.
Choanal Atresia Treatments
Infants that are born with bilateral choanal atresia are diagnosed soon after birth due to their problems breathing. If the baby is unable to breathe, the doctor will usually try to insert a catheter into the nose to open a breathing passage. If the doctor is unable to pass the catheter into the nasal passage, the condition is detected.
Surgery for choanal atresia involves a minimally invasive procedure performed through the nostrils. The blockages to the nasal passages are cleared. In some children temporary silicone stents are placed to help keep the passages open until healing takes place. These stents may be left in for several weeks to help prevent further blockages from forming.
If you have questions about choanal atresia or children’s blocked noses make an appointment to see an ear nose and throat specialist.