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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Other Names for this Disease
  • TBM
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.

Your Question

I have just been diagnosed with TBM and I want to find out as much as possible about this disease, specifically regarding diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis.

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

How is tracheobronchomalacia diagnosed in adults?

Tracheobronchomalacia (TBM) can be diagnosed with CT scan or bronchoscopy. TBM is considered mild if the trachea narrows to 50% of its initial size while the individual is breathing out, moderate if it narrows to 25%, and severe if the walls of the trachea touch.[1]
Last updated: 7/15/2013

What are the signs and symptoms of tracheobronchomalacia?

Tracheobronchomalacia (TBM) is a condition that occurs when the walls of the airway (specifically the trachea and bronchi) are weak. This can cause the airway to become narrow or collapse. There are two forms of TBM. Primary TBM (also called congenital TBM) typically develops during infancy or early childhood, while secondary TBM(also called acquired TBM) is usually seen in adults.

Some affected people may initially have no signs or symptoms. However, the condition is typically progressive (becomes worse overtime) and many people will eventually develop characteristic features such as shortness of breath, cough, sputum retention ( inability to clear mucus from the respiratory tract), and wheezing or stridor with breathing. Symptoms may become worse during periods of stress (i.e. illness), when reclining, or when forcing a cough. Infants and young children with TBM tend to have more frequent respiratory infections and delayed recovery from these illnesses.[1][2][3]
Last updated: 3/5/2015

How might tracheobronchomalacia be treated in affected adults?

Management of symptomatic tracheobronchomalacia (TBM) first involves identifying underlying conditions contributing to symptoms, such as a chronic infection, chronic inflammation, compression, or injury. Initial treatment will target these underlying medical concerns.[1]

If symptoms persist, people with TBM undergo a pulmonary function test or other functional assessment to help guide therapy choice and allow monitoring of the indiviudal's response to treatment. 

Treatment options may include:[1]

Silicone stenting 
Long-term stenting 
Surgical correction (tracheobronchoplasty) 
Positive pressure therapy 
T-tube placement

We strongly recommend that you discuss your treatment options with a healthcare provider.
Last updated: 7/15/2013

What is the long-term prognosis of adults with tracheobronchomalacia?

Tracheobronchomalacia (TBM) can remain stable over time, but tends to worsen in a majority of affected individuals.[4] If an affected adult does not pursue treatment, TBM may cause significant breathing problems, but it is rarely life-threatening.  In general, advances in treatment of TBM have improved the long-term outlook for affected individuals.[5]
Last updated: 7/15/2013

  • Ernst A, Carden K, Gangadharan SP. Tracheomalacia and tracheobronchomalacia in adults. In: Basow, DS. UpToDate. Waltham, MA: UpToDate; 2013;
  • Daniel S Schwartz, MD, FACS. Tracheomalacia. Medscape Reference. March 2014;
  • Christopher M Oermann, MD. Congenital anomalies of the intrathoracic airways and tracheoesophageal fistula. UpToDate. April 2014; Accessed 3/5/2015.
  • Carden KA, Boiselle PM, Waltz DA, and Ernst A. . Tracheomalacia and Tracheobronchomalacia in Children and Adults: An In-Depth Review. Chest. 2005; 127(3):984-1005. Accessed 9/12/2013.
  • Ridge CA, O'donnell CR, Lee EY, Majid A, Boiselle PM. Tracheobronchomalacia: current concepts and controversies. Journal of Thoracic Imaging. 2011; 26:278-289. Accessed 11/20/2012.
Other Names for this Disease
  • TBM
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.