The long-term outlook (prognosis) for people with tracheobronchomalacia (TBM) varies depending on the underlying cause. In general, the prognosis is good in children with primary TBM (also called congenital TBM) who do not have any associated problems. Most of these cases that develop during infancy resolve on their own when the cartilage of the trachea naturally stiffens (often between ages one and two). However, intervention may be needed in children with episodes of airway obstruction, frequent infections, respiratory failure, and/or failure to thrive. When primary TBM is part of a genetic condition, the prognosis largely depends on the severity of the condition and the other associated signs and symptoms.
Secondary TBM (also called acquired TBM) can remain stable over time, but tends to worsen in the majority of affected people. Without treatment, TBM may cause significant breathing problems, but it is rarely life-threatening. Fortunately, treatment options have progressed significantly in recent decades which have lead to improvements in prognosis and quality of life.
Last updated: 3/6/2015
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Ridge CA, O'donnell CR, Lee EY, Majid A, Boiselle PM. Tracheobronchomalacia: current concepts and controversies. Journal of Thoracic Imaging. 2011; 26:278-289. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22009081. Accessed 11/20/2012.