Retropharyngeal Hematoma in the Context of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

A Case Report and Review of the Literature

Christian Warken; Nicole Rotter; Joachim Theodor Maurer; Ulrike Attenberger; Anne Lammert


J Med Case Reports. 2019;13(269) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Background: Obstructive sleep apnea is related to increased systemic inflammation and arterial hypertension. We present a case of retropharyngeal hematoma without trauma und hypothesize that this could be caused by untreated obstructive sleep apnea.

Case presentation: A 47-year-old white woman with unilateral pharyngeal discomfort presented to our ear, nose, and throat clinic. She had no risk factors for the development of a spontaneous retropharyngeal hematoma, for example, hypertension or coagulation disorder. As she was overweight, the anamnesis included signs of obstructive sleep apnea such as snoring or breathing arrests during the night, which she denied. An endoscopic examination showed a submucosal hemorrhage of the posterior wall of her pharynx. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed a retropharyngeal hematoma without evidence of the injury of any blood vessel. A subsequent seven-channel polygraphy revealed a severe obstructive sleep apnea with an apnea-hypopnea index of 59.5 per hour. She was subsequently treated with auto-titrating continuous positive airway pressure resolving obstructive sleep apnea immediately. Two months after this episode she presented without any complaints.

Conclusion: In consequence of this case we are convinced that an untreated obstructive sleep apnea can lead to retropharyngeal hematoma.