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Medical Science Monitor Basic Research


Airway Obstruction Secondary to Emphysematous Epiglottitis: A Case Report

Rare disease, Educational Purpose (only if useful for a systematic review or synthesis)

Marc R. Rohrbach, Sepehr Shabani, Aaron Wieland

USA Division of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, Department of Surgery, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI, USA

Am J Case Rep 2016; 17:834-836

DOI: 10.12659/AJCR.900334

Available online:

Published: 2016-11-08


BACKGROUND: Despite a shift in the epidemiology of epiglottitis following the introduction of the Haemophilus influenzae type B vaccine, acute infectious epiglottitis continues to be a relatively common and potentially life-threatening infection in adults. Epiglottitis complicated by abscess is rare, and emphysematous abscess is even less common. Early diagnosis and intervention is paramount in reducing morbidity and mortality. Although case reports exist, photographic depiction of this complication is not readily available.
CASE REPORT: We present the case of a 59-year-old male with rapidly progressive emphysematous epiglottitis managed with awake fiber optic intubation followed by incision, drainage, and antibiotic therapy. Early recognition and intervention in this patient led to complete resolution of the infection, with no long-term sequelae.
CONCLUSIONS: Clinicians should be familiar with the radiographic and endoscopic findings which support an emphysematous abscess, as well as the treatment and airway management concerns in such cases.

Keywords: Airway Obstruction, Epiglottitis, Otolaryngology