June 1997

Maturational Descent of the Epiglottis

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Diagnostic Imaging, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1997;123(6):627-628. doi:10.1001/archotol.1997.01900060069012

Background:  Otolaryngologists and anesthesiologists have described a maturational descent of the epiglottis that occurs in infancy and childhood.

Objective:  To investigate the changing level of the epiglottis to confirm and characterize this phenomenon more completely.

Design:  A survey of 500 images with 338 images selected for the study.

Setting:  A tertiary care facility.

Patients:  Asymptomatic children aged 1 day to 18 years.

Main Outcome Measure:  The position of the tip of the epiglottis was correlated with the cervical vertebral level.

Results:  Data indicate that maturational descent of the epiglottis starts in infancy and continues into adolescence. These results are statistically significant (P<.01).

Conclusion:  Maturational descent of the epiglottis occurs in a predictable pattern. Understanding this phenomenon may facilitate laryngoscopic, as well as clinical and radiologic, evaluation of the airway in children.Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1997;123:627-628