The organ that connects the larynx to the bronchi is called the trachea. The trachea, also known as the windpipe, is shaped like a tube and is located almost directly in the middle of the neck. Sometimes things occur that unbalance the trachea and it can shift more to the left or the right side of the neck. Any movement in the trachea whether it is to the left or right is considered a tracheal deviation. This type of deviation is not a condition but a sign of another underlying issue.
The trachea connects all the way down to thoracic cavity and is attached to the two bronchi. The trachea is made up of cartilage that includes muscle and connective tissue. The trachea runs between 5 to 6 inches in length and roughly 1 diameter long. There are almost 20 cartilaginous rings that keep the trachea in place. The trachea is responsible for allowing breathing to occur.
Tracheal Deviation Symptoms
If you have one or any of the following symptoms, it could be mean that you are experiencing a deviation of your trachea.
- Chest pain
- Abnormal breathing sounds
- Increased heartbeats
- Trouble breathing
While there may be several causes for a tracheal deviation to occur, most are treatable. A tracheal deviation can occur for several different reasons including but not limited to the following:
- Lung problems
- Tumors, both malignant or benign
- Chest injury
- Preexisting neck or chest conditions
- Habitual smoking
- Internal bleeding of the neck
- Punctures in the chest wall
- Collapsed lung, aka, atelectasis
- Enlargement of thyroid gland
- Extra fluid build called Pleural effusion
For a medical professional to properly diagnosis a tracheal deviation, there are some tests that need to be done, including:
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): An MRI allows doctors to check for masses or anything that could cause pressure on the chest and thoracic cavity.
- CT Scan: A CT scan works like an MRI to ensure there is no blockage or pressure on the chest.
- Blood Tests: If there are certain antibodies that are lingering in your blood, this could indicate a problem with the trachea.
- Thoracentesis: This test is more invasive and requires fluid to be removed from your chest and a biopsy to be performed.
- Chest Drain Placement: This procedure is done to help remove any trapped air in the chest.
- Physical Examination: Doctors can physically check to see if there is a tracheal deviation by using the right index finger to touch the groove on the top of the breastbone. The finger then should make its way up the area and if there is a tracheal deviation, it will be noticeable.
Different causes and problems of a tracheal deviation require certain types of treatment. For example, children often have a natural tracheal deviation that causes no symptoms or complications and fixes itself. Depending on the type of neck injury one endures, there are different solutions. If there are no problems with breathing and there is only some swelling, doctors will leave it alone and it will resolve itself.
Unfortunately, if there is bleeding in the neck then doctors will opt to surgically stop the bleeding and relieve pressure on the trachea. If an infection from surgeries such as pneumonectomy occur, then doctors will provide antibiotics to heal the infection. Chemotherapy and radiation can help kill some of the cancerous cells found in the trachea and its surrounding area. Unfortunately, in some cases like pulmonary fibrosis, there is no cure or proper treatment. Medication is given to those with pulmonary fibrosis to help reduce symptoms but there is no recovery period or cure.
There is very little that one can do to prevent a tracheal deviation. There should be no alarm if you notice your child has a tracheal deviation because it is common among children. Treatment for a tracheal deviation is usually simple, but it may be more difficult to treat the underlying problem that caused the deviation to occur.