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DOI: 10.7759/cureus.42578; PMCID: PMC10460287


Oropharyngeal teratomas are an extremely rare congenital tumor. They are often diagnosed prenatally and can cause significant airway obstruction and feeding difficulties at birth. We present a five-month-old female that was diagnosed with a palatal teratoma that presented with failure to thrive, difficulty feeding, and eventually with severe obstructive sleep apnea. We present a five-month-old term, otherwise healthy female who became stridulous after an episode of the respiratory syncytial virus at one month old. At three months old, an otolaryngologist diagnosed mild laryngomalacia with no mass identified, and no surgical intervention was recommended. Due to continued poor weight gain, at four months old, a nasogastric tube was placed. She was subsequently admitted for further workup. She had severe stridor, a failure to thrive, and was in the 0.07th percentile for weight. Workup revealed severe obstructive sleep apnea and a palatal mass obstructing her left oropharynx. A biopsy and debulking of the mass was performed in the operating room. Pathology resulted as a mature teratoma with evidence of glial and intestinal tissue. There are no pathognomonic characteristics found on imaging to diagnose teratomas, and diagnosis is made with pathologic identification of two of the three germ cell layers. Although most teratomas are benign, there is potential for malignant transformation involving any of the represented germ cell layers. Many teratomas are diagnosed prenatally and can be quite large, often requiring Ex Utero Intrapartum Treatment (EXIT) procedure at birth to establish a safe airway. Overall, this case highlights the importance of a thorough head and neck exam, including a bilateral flexible laryngoscopy, when evaluating an infant with airway obstruction. Providers evaluating these patients should consider oropharyngeal masses, such as teratoma, as part of the differential to ensure accurate and timely diagnosis.

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airway obstruction; congenital abnormality; failure to thrive; obstructive sleep apnea; stridor; teratoma


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