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Laryngoscope. 2001 Nov;111(11 Pt 1):1976-9.

Laryngospasm: an atypical manifestation of severe gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

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Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, University of Southern California School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California 90033, USA.



To present a potentially life-threatening manifestation of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), laryngospasm. This review covers the diagnosis and management of eight patients treated by the authors.


A retrospective analysis of 8 consecutive patients who were referred for the evaluation of unexplained laryngospasm. The medical therapy and lifestyle modifications of treatment are discussed.


The patient records were reviewed and tabulated for age, onset of symptoms, and history of GERD; the presence of an associated upper respiratory infection with persistent cough; and the development of syncope in the presence of laryngospasm.


All 8 patients had initial control of laryngospasm. Three had complete control without relapse, 3 had initial control with rare relapse of mild laryngospasm, and 2 patients had initial control with frequent relapses. Six of the 8 had syncopal episodes as a consequence of the laryngospasm. All patients were initially treated with a proton pump inhibitor. Five of the 8 required the addition of an esophageal prokinetic agent to control the reflux and subsequent laryngospasm. Two patients are off all medications at the time of this writing and 4 of the 8 have had rare relapses after initial control of symptoms. Once control of the laryngospasm had been achieved, there were no subsequent episodes of syncope.


Based on the data collected in these 8 individuals, patients with reflux disease (known or unknown) can develop severe laryngospasm and possible syncope. The key factor seems to be the association of a recent or concurrent upper respiratory infection that results in a protracted cough that is more severe when supine and at times violent. The cough increases the amount of the refluxate, which is the noxious insult to the larynx.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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