Dynamic volumetric computed tomographic assessment of the young paediatric airway: Initial experience of rapid, non-invasive, four-dimensional technique


  • ZYJ Tan MBBS, BmedSci; M Crossett Ba App Sc; M Ditchfield MBBS MD.
  • Conflict of interest: No conflict of interest.


Dr Zhi Yie Judith Tan, Department of Diagnostic Imaging, Monash Children's, Southern Health, 246 Clayton Road, Clayton, Vic. 3168, Australia.

Email: zhi_yie@yahoo.com.au



The aim of this study was to evaluate the dynamic volumetric CT in the assessment of the paediatric airway.


Ethics board approval was obtained for this retrospective review. Eight infants (median age 6 months, range 3 weeks to 1 year, 50% female) at a tertiary paediatric centre with complex clinical respiratory presentation underwent volumetric CT assessment of their airways. The entire lungs were examined over 1–2 respiratory cycles. In four patients, intravenous contrast was administered to assess for vascular airway compression. The patients were not intubated. CT findings were correlated with bronchography and bronchoscopy, where available.


Two patients had diffuse tracheobronchomalacia associated with chronic lung disease. One patient demonstrated focal severe cervical tracheomalacia. One patient had a double aortic arch causing fixed narrowing with superimposed malacia of the distal trachea. Four patients had normal airways; one with chronic lung disease, one demonstrating air trapping. CT findings were concordant with bronchography (one case) and bronchoscopy (four cases) in all but one (CT negative, bronchoscopy positive) but did not alter patient management.


The assessment of the paediatric airway, and in particular for tracheobronchomalacia, is difficult. Assessment with bronchography, bronchoscopy, helical CT and MR have issues with reliability, intubation, intratracheal/bronchial contrast administration and ionising radiation. Volumetric CT assesses the entire central airway in children at much lower radiation dose compared with previous dynamic CT imaging. This non-invasive, rapid assessment obviates the need for patient cooperation and enables evaluation of extratracheal intrathoracic structures. Volumetric CT enables four-dimensional assessment for paediatric tracheobronchomalacia without intubation or patient cooperation and at low radiation dose.