Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Tracheobronchomalacia (TBM)

The cause of tracheobronchomalacia (TBM) depends on whether it is primary or acquired. Primary TBM is associated with prematurity or certain genetic conditions.

Acquired TBM can be idiopathic (have no known cause) or be related to other conditions, including:

  • Prolonged intubation (breathing tube used during hospitalization)
  • Tracheostomy (a hole surgically made in the neck for breathing)
  • Long-term irritation and coughing from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Tumors or cysts that compress the trachea or bronchi

Diagnosing tracheobronchomalacia

A diagnosis of TBM begins with a physical exam and discussion of your symptoms. Additional tests may include:

  • Pulmonary function testing (PFT): Tests to determine the severity of your respiratory impairment, often using a spirometer, measure the volume of air inhaled and exhaled by your lungs.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: This test combines X-ray and computer technology to produce detailed cross-sectional images of your chest cavity.
  • Bronchoscopy: An endoscope (a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera on the end) is inserted into your airway to check for blockages.

Diagnostic Tests