Acute Adult Supraglottitis: Current Management and Treatment

Mohannad Al-Qudah, MD, FAAOHNS; Shetty, S. MD; M. Alomari, MD; Maen Alqdah, FRCPC, FCCP


South Med J. 2010;103(8):800-804. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Acute adult supraglottitis can be a serious, life-threatening disease because of its potential for sudden upper airway obstruction. Symptoms and signs of this disease may be nonspecific and may resemble those of upper respiratory tract infection. Unexplained sore throat with tenderness of the anterior neck over the hyoid bone warrant careful examination by flexible laryngoscopy to rule out laryngeal congestion and edema. Laboratory tests are usually not helpful in picking up the diagnosis. Following diagnosis, patients should be hospitalized, started on intravenous antibiotics and their airway closely monitored, as airway obstruction may develop.


Acute adult supraglottitis (AAS) is a challenging subject for otolaryngologists, anesthesiologists, emergency medicine and primary care physicians, as misdiagnoses and inappropriate management are responsible for the high mortality rate of up to 20%.[1] The aims of this paper are to review the epidemiology and clinical presentation, and to discuss the treatment options of the disease with particular attention to airway management, as well as to outline the major differences between AAS and epiglottitis in children.


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