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Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2011 May;120(5):296-9.

Acute supraglottitis in adults.

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Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Liverpool Hospital, Sydney, Australia.



Adult supraglottitis is a potentially life-threatening airway infection. We reviewed the management and outcome of supraglottitis in 169 adults admitted to Liverpool Hospital between 1999 and 2009.


A retrospective review was conducted of all admissions with supraglottitis in patients at least 18 years of age. The diagnosis was confirmed by fiberoptic nasolaryngoscopy or direct laryngoscopy under general anesthesia. The main outcome measure was the need for intubation or tracheotomy. Univariate analysis was performed to determine factors that led to a worse outcome.


There were 80 men and 89 women in the cohort, with a median age of 51 years. Of these, 140 patients were admitted to the intensive care unit for a mean duration of 2 days. The common symptoms and signs at presentation were odynophagia and dysphagia (94%), dysphonia (65%), and stridor (33%). Endotracheal intubation was performed in 16 patients, and an awake tracheotomy was required in 4 patients. Dexamethasone acetate was used in 103 patients. Thirty-five patients had diabetes mellitus as a comorbidity. The presence of diabetes was predictive of the need for intubation or tracheotomy (p < 0.05), and the use of steroids was predictive of an intensive care unit stay of 24 hours or less (p < 0.05).


Fiberoptic laryngoscopy is the gold standard for diagnosis of supraglottitis, and close airway monitoring is crucial. Conservative management of the airway is a viable option, but the presence of diabetes makes airway intervention more likely. The use of steroids aids in symptom alleviation and hastens resolution of airway swelling, with no negative sequelae.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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