Acute epiglottitis is a well-described life-threatening disease. Since the generalized use of the Haemophilus influenzae type B (HIB) vaccine, presentations of this disorder have decreased dramatically in children. Presentations of this and other acute epiglottic swelling can vary remarkably and may easily be misdiagnosed by physicians who have little or no experience with the acutely obstructed airway. Early suspicion and a proper evaluation is mandatory to prevent a life-threatening crisis. Six patients are presented with unusual presentations of acute epiglottic swelling from differing etiologies; these include the following: case 1, recurrent epiglottitis; case 2, chronic epiglottitis; case 3, traumatic epiglottitis; case 4, caustic ingestion; and cases 5 and 6, simultaneous infection of family members. Because the incidence of acute epiglottitis is decreasing, it has become rare at most institutions. To help primary care and emergency room physicians, a formal written protocol should be available at medical facilities that might be faced with patients presenting with acute airway obstruction. An 'acute airway obstruction protocol' used successfully for the last decade is offered. Use of such a written document might be lifesaving for patients with impending upper airway obstruction. The otolaryngologist is a key member of the recommended multidisciplinary team.
ASJC Scopus subject areas