At 11 months, Spencer Dean wasn’t developing like he should have been. “He had breathing issues and was spitting up a lot. Imagine waterfalls of spit up,” says Spencer’s mother, Jessica Dean. “Everyone told me it was probably just reflux, but I had a gut feeling it was something more.”
When Spencer’s symptoms persisted, Jessica made an appointment with pediatric ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist Roy Rajan, MD, with LVPG Pediatric Surgical Specialties.
“Spencer was a very loud breather,” says Jessica. “You could hear him breathing from across the room.”
Rajan diagnosed Spencer with laryngomalacia, a condition that causes tissues above the vocal cords to partially collapse into the airway when inhaling. A sign of laryngomalacia is stridor – noisy breathing.
In mild to moderate cases, no intervention is required. Stridor typically presents within the first week of a child’s life and can progress over the course of four to six months, often resolving by 18 to 24 months. “The inspiratory stridor – noisy inhaling – can be high-pitched or can sound like a snore,” Rajan says.
“Typically the sound will be worse during or after feeding or when a child lies on his or her back.”
Spencer’s life-changing surgery
Spencer’s laryngomalacia didn’t improve over time, so Rajan recommended a procedure called supraglottoplasty.
This procedure alters the anatomy of the supraglottis – the area above the voice box – by removing excess tissue to prevent collapse into the airway.
“The care at Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital was absolutely excellent. We were informed every step of the way, and we had zero complications,” Jessica says. “After the surgery, Spencer was a totally different kid. The spitting up stopped immediately, and his breathing improved significantly after a couple of weeks. Now, he’s a happy and rambunctious toddler,” she says.
Pediatric ENT expertise
Rajan and colleague Sri K. Chennupati, MD, are the only pediatric ENT specialists in the Lehigh Valley. Rajan’s role in caring for kids with airway issues extends beyond his surgical expertise. “When I see kids with laryngomalacia, especially when it’s severe, parents are scared,” he says. “We make sure they are informed about the diagnosis and treatment options. We put them at ease.”
Thanks to Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital, Spencer and his family didn’t have to travel far for an expert diagnosis and life-changing surgery.