This page is for adult patients. For pediatric patients, see: stridor (peds).


  • Stridor refers to harsh upper airway sounds, classically inspiratory

Clinical Features

  • Inspiratory stridor
  • Expiratory stridor vs. wheezing
    • Suggestive of intrathoracic obstruction (Pressuretrach < Pressurepleura)
    • Asthma

Differential Diagnosis



Infectious Disorders


Neoplastic Disorders

  • Neoplasms/tumors

Allergic and Auto-Immune Disorders

  • Spasmodic/tracheobronchitis
  • Angioedema/Angioneurotic edema

Metabolic, Storage Disorders

  • Cerebral Gaucher's of infants (acute)
  • Tracheobronchial amyloidosis

Biochemical Disorders

Congenital, Developmental Disorders

Psychiatric Disorders

  • Somatization disorder

Anatomical or Mechanical

  • Foreign body aspiration
  • Acute gastric acid/aspiration syndrome
  • Airway obstruction
  • Neck compartment hemorrhage/hematoma
  • Vocal Cord Dysfunction [1]

Vegetative, Autonomic, Endocrine Disorders


  • Smoke inhalation
  • Chemical burn/esophagus

Chronic Pediatric Conditions


  • Assess airway
    • If unstable, see Difficult Airway Algorithm, Intubation and consider surgical intervention/consultation
    • If stable, consider imaging or direct visualization of larynx with fiberoptic scope or video laryngoscope GEMC:Airway Procedures
  • CT of neck if mass/infection suspected


  • Treat underlying cause


  • Based on underlying cause

See Also

  • Stridor (Peds)


  1. Vocal Cord Dysfunction on Internet Book of Critical Care
  2. Ernst A, Feller-Kopman D, Becker HD, Mehta AC. Central airway obstruction. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2004
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