This information is provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD).
A laryngeal cleft is a rare malformation involving the larynx (known as the voice box) and the esophagus (known as the food pipe). Normally, when the larynx develops, it is completely separate from the esophagus so that swallowed foods travel directly through the esophagus into the stomach. A laryngeal cleft occurs when these structures do not develop normally in an embryo, and there is an opening connecting the larynx (and sometimes trachea) and the esophagus. This enables food and liquid that is swallowed to pass through the opening to the larynx, and into the lungs. Signs and symptoms may appear in the first few months of life and may include feeding problems, trouble swallowing, failure to thrive, reflux, coughing, wheezing, stridor, aspiration, respiratory distress, and recurrent lung infections. There are several different types of laryngeal clefts (types I through IV), which are classified based on the specific location and extent (severity) of the cleft.
A cleft can occur as an isolated abnormality, as part of an underlying syndrome or condition (such as Opitz-Frias, VACTERL, Pallister-Hall, CHARGE), or with other associated malformations. Treatment depends on the location and severity of the cleft and symptoms. For example, small clefts can sometimes be managed with medications to control symptoms such as reflux or aspiration, while some smaller clefts and larger clefts may need to be treated with endoscopic procedures or surgery.
For more information, visit GARD.