Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is home to one of the only pediatric aerodigestive clinics in the Southeast. Our team of pediatric-trained providers is dedicated to finding the right answers and treatments for children with complex airway and digestive tract disorders.
When families visit our Aerodigestive Clinic, they see doctors and other healthcare professionals from many different pediatric specialties, including:
- Otolaryngology (ENT)
- Respiratory therapy
- Speech-language pathology
This multidisciplinary team works together to monitor patient progress and perform joint appointments, procedures and/or surgeries. This coordination can help minimize travel time, anesthesia time and days out of school and/or work for our patients and their families.
Children who have aerodigestive conditions often have many caregivers, making it difficult to coordinate care. At Children’s, our care coordinators can work with patient families to help guide them and advocate for the needs of their child. Our care coordinators provide feedback about treatment plans, support services and ongoing care. They are also available to help answer any questions. Our care coordinators include:
- Advanced practice providers
- Social workers
Aerodigestive diseases involve disorders of the respiratory and digestive systems, including the mouth, throat, lungs and esophagus. At Children’s, we focus on the care of these complex systems.
What are common aerodigestive medical conditions?
- Airway disease and malacia
- Aspiration and dysphagia
- Chronic cough or croup
- Congenital abnormalities of the airway and esophagus
- Eosinophilic esophagitis or gastritis
- Feeding disorders
- Gastrostomy tube feeds or nasogastric tube feeds
- Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
- Recurrent pneumonia
- Severe asthma
- Stridor and wheezing
- Tracheal stenosis
- Tracheoesophageal fistula and esophageal atresia
Different procedures may be performed to help our specialists develop the right treatment plan for your child, as he may need to have one or more procedures. If your child is scheduled for multiple procedures, more than one procedure may be done during the same visit. Procedures are performed at our Egleston and Scottish Rite hospitals.
- Adenoidectomy: The adenoids are clusters of soft tissue in the back of the nasal cavity and hidden above the roof of the mouth that help keep your child from getting sick. When swollen, they can cause problems with breathing or sleep. If this happens, then they need to be removed. Your child may have a slight sore throat or stuffy nose after they are taken out.
- Airway surgery: This procedure helps widen the airway behind the tongue by removing extra tissue on the sides of the throat behind the tongue, shortening the soft palate and removing the uvula.
- Ear tube surgery (bilateral tympanostomy): This is surgery to place tubes inside your child’s ears. The eustachian tubes, which lead from the middle ear to the back of the nose, help your child’s ears drain. When they get clogged, it can cause your child to have earaches, infections or poor hearing. Ear tube surgery is a quick, helpful way to improve drainage. The tubes are very small, about the size of the numbers on a dime.
- Bronchoscopy: This test uses a scope to take pictures of your child’s trachea (windpipe) and portions of his lungs. The doctor will also take a fluid sample that will be tested in a lab. The most common issues after the procedure are coughing or wheezing.
- Endoscopy: Using a small, flexible tube with a camera called an endoscope or scope, the doctor will look at your child’s upper GI tract. This includes the lining of the esophagus (swallowing tube), stomach and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). The doctor will be able to see things like ulcers, and they will take biopsies (small samples of tissue). The most common issues after the procedure are burping or extra reflux.
- Laryngeal cleft repair: A cleft is a hole between the esophagus and windpipe. This may be diagnosed during a surgery. Sometimes medicine can be injected to help fill in the hole to see if a repair would help. That medicine wears off over a few months. A repair will fill in the hole so that it is no longer there.
- Laryngoscopy: A doctor will use a laryngoscope to look at your child’s larynx (voice box) and vocal cords. Your child may have a slight sore throat after the procedure.
- Laryngotracheal reconstruction: This type of surgery is done to widen your child’s windpipe to help make breathing easier.
- pH impedance probe: This includes placing a small tube through one nostril down into the esophagus. This probe collects information for 24 hours to check your child’s reflux amounts, direction and acidity. After one day, the tube is removed. Your child can eat and drink as they typically do while it is in.
- Slide tracheoplasty: A procedure to make your child’s airway larger.
- Supraglottoplasty: This removes extra tissue or helps alter tissue that may be causing obstruction of airflow in the upper larynx, which is at the top of the airway. This allows a child with certain conditions (such as severe laryngomalacia) to breathe more easily. Your child will stay overnight for observation if this is done.
- Tonsillectomy: Tonsils are the areas of tissue on both sides of the throat that help fight infections. Sometimes they can get swollen. When they get too big, they can cause problems with eating, breathing, voice quality or sleeping or can cause your child to get sick. Taking them out is called a tonsillectomy. Your child might have a sore throat after the tonsils are removed.
- Tracheotomy: This is a surgical procedure in which an incision is made in the front of your child’s neck and a breathing tube is placed into the windpipe.
Parents: Looking for more information? Here are additional resources for you.
We believe the best approach to treating children with complex aerodigestive disorders is to combine the expertise of several pediatric specialists. Led by Dawn Simon, MD, Medical Director, the Children’s Aerodigestive Clinic team includes:
- Gastroenterologists: Benjamin Gold, MD; Barbara McElhanon, MD
- General surgeons: Amina Bhatia, MD
- Pulmonologists: Allan Dias, MD; Rachel Linnemann, MD; Jonathan Popler, MD; Eric Price, MD; Dawn Simon, MD, Medical Director
- Otolaryngologists: Geoffrey Aaron, MD; Lori Guillot, MD; April Landry, MD; Nikhila Raol, MD; James Thomsen, MD
Advanced practice providers
- Suzanne Alfors, CPNP
- Heather Buckley, PA-C
Other team members
The Children’s Aerodigestive Clinic is located at the Center for Advanced Pediatrics. Procedures are performed at our Egleston and Scottish Rite hospitals.
Center for Advanced Pediatrics
1400 Tullie Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30329
1405 Clifton Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30322
Scottish Rite hospital
1001 Johnson Ferry Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30342