The University of Utah Health Airway Disorders Center evaluates, diagnoses, and helps patients manage central airway disorders (disorders of the larger airways). Our clinic team combines the services of otolaryngologists, pulmonologists, and speech therapists for combined expertise. This provides our patients with a team of specialists perfectly suited to help them manage complex airway disorders.

Conditions We Treat

  • Scars (subglottic or tracheal stenosis) blocking the airway
  • Tumors (benign or malignant) blocking the airway
  • Soft and/or floppy airway (tracheomalacia)

These diseases are closely related to and can overlap with voice disorders.

Preparing for Your Appointment

When you arrive at the Surgical Specialty Center, you can check in at our front desk. At this time we will be ask you to verify insurance and contact information as well as complete necessary paperwork.

What to Bring

  • Insurance card
  • Any medical records that may be helpful to us
  • A list of your medications

At your appointment, our goal is to treat your airway condition in the most efficient manner. To do this, we may ask you to see two different specialists during your appointment. We will ask you questions about your history of breathing problems, examine you, and review any available tests and studies.

Note: Seeing two different specialists may require two co-payments for the two separate consultations.

Anatomy of the Respiratory System


Respiration is the act of breathing:

  • Inhaling (inspiration). The act of breathing in oxygen.

  • Exhaling (expiration). The act of breathing out carbon dioxide.

Respiratory system

The respiratory system is made up of the organs involved in the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. These are the parts:

  • Nose

  • Mouth

  • Throat (pharynx)

  • Voice box (larynx)

  • Windpipe (trachea)

  • Large airways (bronchi)

  • Lungs

The upper respiratory tract is made up of the:

  • Nose

  • Nasal cavity

  • Sinuses

  • Larynx

  • Trachea

The lower respiratory tract is made up of the:

  • Lungs

  • Bronchi and bronchioles

  • Alveoli (air sacs)


The lungs take in oxygen. The cells of your body need oxygen to live and carry out their normal functions. The lungs also get rid of carbon dioxide, a waste product of the cells.

The lungs are a pair of cone-shaped organs made up of spongy, pinkish-gray tissue. They take up most of the space in the chest (thorax).

The lungs are surrounded by a membrane (pleura).

The lungs are separated from each other by the mediastinum, an area that contains the:

  • Heart and its large vessels

  • Trachea

  • Esophagus

  • Thymus gland

  • Lymph nodes

The right lung has 3 sections, called lobes. The left lung has 2 lobes. When you breathe:

  • Air enters your body through your nose or mouth.

  • Air then travels down the throat through the larynx and trachea.

  • Air goes into the lungs through tubes called main-stem bronchi.

One main-stem bronchus leads to the right lung and one to the left lung:

  • In the lungs, the main-stem bronchi divide into smaller bronchi.

  • The smaller bronchi divide into even smaller tubes (bronchioles).

  • Bronchioles end in tiny air sacs (alveoli).

Mark R. Elstad, MD

Dr. Elstad is a Professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Respiratory, Critical Care, and Occupational Pulmonary Medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine. He is the former Chief of Medicine and current MICU Director at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. As a Pulmonary/Critical Care physici... Read More


Airway Disorders, Bronchoscopy surgery, Critical Care, Pulmonary, Vasculitis


Surgical Specialty Center
Airway Disorder Clinic

Marshall E. Smith, MD, FACS

Patient Rating:


4.8 out of 5

Dr. Marshall Smith is a professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. He is a board certified otolaryngologist and the medical director of the Voice Disorders Center. He completed his residency in Otolaryngology at UCLA and a fellowship in Pediatric Otolaryngology in Cincinnati. He is an NIH funded investigator and participates in research on ... Read More


Airway Disorders, Laryngeal Laser Surgery, Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery, Pediatric Otolaryngology, Vasculitis, Voice Disorders


LDS Hospital 801-408-4972
PCH Outpatient Services at Riverton 801-662-1740
Primary Children's Hospital
Pediatric ENT Clinic
Surgical Specialty Center 801-587-8368
University Hospital
Otolaryngology/ENT, Clinic 9
Surgical Specialty Center

729 Arapeen Drive
Salt Lake City, Utah 84108