Pediatric Chronic Aspiration
Chronic aspiration describes foreign bodies that are repeatedly inhaled into the lungs.
What is Pediatric Chronic Aspiration?
Chronic aspiration is when a child repeatedly breathes in any food/drink, saliva, or undigested stomach contents that come back up the esophagus. These materials are known as foreign bodies, and the continual inhalation can cause several chronic (recurring) respiratory issues. It differs from acute (sudden)
foreign body aspiration that can occur at irregular intervals.
If left untreated, chronic aspiration can be life threatening. It can also lead to:
Sleep apnea (temporarily stop breathing while sleeping) Persistent wheezing or cough (lasting more than three weeks)
pneumonia Lung injury
What are the signs and symptoms of Pediatric Chronic Aspiration?
Symptoms will vary according to the cause and severity of the condition responsible for the aspiration. Symptoms can include:
A weak suck while breast or bottle feeding
Bradycardia (abnormally slow heartbeat)
Choking, coughing or gagging while eating
Cyanosis (blue or gray fingertips and lips)
Food becoming stuck or coming back up after eating
Hoarse voice or ragged cry
Light fever after eating
Rapid breathing or holding breath while eating
Repeated respiratory infections
What are the causes of Pediatric Chronic Aspiration?
Several conditions can cause chronic aspiration, including:
Dysphagia – This disorder makes swallowing painful or impossible due to the muscles of the pharynx or esophagus not functioning properly.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – This digestive condition causes partially digested food or stomach acids to flow back into the esophagus (tube that connects the throat with the stomach).
Neurological disorders – Conditions like cerebral palsy can affect body movement, posture and muscle coordination, which can lead to a greater chance of aspiration.
Structural abnormalities – Anatomical irregularities can lead to a higher risk of aspiration. These include:
Cleft palate – a gap in the roof of the mouth
Duodenal obstruction – a complete or partial blockage that prevents food from passing out of the stomach
Esophageal atresia – a malformation that obstructs the upper esophagus and causes a child to have difficulties with swallowing and eating
Laryngeal cleft – a gap between the larynx (voice box) and the esophagus
Tracheoesophageal fistula – one or more abnormal connections between the child’s esophagus and trachea (windpipe)
Pediatric Chronic Aspiration Doctors and Providers