Choanal Atresia

What is Choanal Atresia ?

Choanal Atresia is a congenital blockage of the posterior / back part of the nasal airway by tissue. This results in difficulty with breathing. While it can occur in isolation , it is also seen in the newborn with other birth defects such as Treacher Collins syndrome, CHARGE, and Tessier syndrome.

Types of Choanal Atresia
The two main types of Choanal Atresia are:

  • Bilateral Choanal Atresia: Bilateral Choanal Atresia is dangerous as it blocks both nasal passages in children. Babies only breathe through their nose and when their nose is blocked, breathing becomes difficult.
  • Unilateral Choanal Atresia: Unilateral Choanal Atresia occurs when a baby is unable to breathe from one nasal passage. It rarely causes acute respiratory distress and often presents later in children with unilateral nasal discharge .

Both of the above types of Choanal Atresia types are further categorized depending on the form of blockage:
The blockage may be due to formation of bone (hard tissue) or membrane (soft tissue). Often it is a mixed type.


Choanal Atresia is seen in newborn babies. There is no specific cause of Choanal Atresia. It is believed that Choanal Atresia happens in the womb when the nasal passage doesn’t fully open and connect with the airway during early development. It is thought to be caused by the failure of resolution of the bucco-pharyngeal membrane which is an embryological remnant at the junction of nose and nasopharynx.

According to studies, a girl’s child is more likely to have Choanal Atresia in comparison to boys. It is also believed that pregnant women with a thyroid disorder might have led to the choanal atresia in their newborn.

Our ENT specialist in Choanal Atresia will help you to understand what causes it.


Typically, newborn babies prefer to breathe through their nose. In some cases, infants breathe through the mouth when crying. But, babies with Choanal Atresia struggle to breathe due to nasal blockage. They may only be able to breathe when they cry because it opens their airways.

Moreover, feeding is difficult because the child can’t breathe while eating and might choke.  It is important to understand if your child is suffering from Choanal Atresia. The signs and symptoms of Choanal Atresia include:

  • Difficult or noisy breathing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Chest retracts
  • Inability to breastfeed and breath at the same time
  • Inability to pass the catheter through the nose into the throat
  • Persistent one side nasal blockage or discharge

If your child experiences any of these signs of Choanal Atresia, you may immediately consult paediatric otolaryngology doctor.


Children with bilateral Choanal Atresia often have respiratory disorder immediately after birth. They are relieved when the child begins to cry. It becomes difficult for the child to breathe during normal circumstances and only breathe when they cry when they open their mouth.

Unilateral atresia may not be detected for years, and patients may present with unilateral nasal discharge or congestion.

We at Adventis ENT & Cochlear Implant Clinic use modern technology and equipment to diagnose Choanal Atresia in children.

Our Paediatric ENT doctor performs a nasal examination to diagnose the cause of obstruction of the nose physical and a complete physical examination to rile out other anomalies. The other tests we may carry out for Choanal Atresia diagnosis  include :

  • Flexible Endoscopy
  • CT Scan


Please read here to understand how to treat Choanal Atresia

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