Research Day

Death Related To Epiglottitis

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INTRODUCTION: Epiglottitis is a condition wherein the epiglottis is inflamed, often as a result of a bacterial infection. The condition may be associated with marked swelling, which, on occasion, may result in airway compromise.

PURPOSE: We present a case of death related to epiglottitis in a middle-aged man.

MATERIALS: The case is from the files of one of the authors (JP).

RESULTS/CASE REPORT: A middle-aged man collapsed while at a pharmacy awaiting a prescription for a nasal decongestant which had been prescribed to him during a visit to an emergency department (ED) earlier that day. He had presented to the ED with complaints of a sore throat and bilateral ear pain. Paramedics responded to the pharmacy and found the man in respiratory distress. He was taken to the ED, where lab tests revealed a neutrophilic leukocytosis and a markedly elevated blood glucose level. He was admitted to the intensive care unit with anoxic encephalopathy and died 2 days later. A throat culture grew beta-hemolytic Streptococcus. An autopsy revealed a swollen and purulent epiglottis, which, on microscopic exam, had intense neutrophilic inflammation. The cause of death was acute epiglottitis.

DISCUSSION/CONCLUSION: Although epiglottitis is well-described in the medical literature, the condition is not as common as it once was. As the condition is now considered to be rare, clinicians must be vigilant in identifying cases and instituting appropriate treatment. Failure to do so may result in loss of life, as the current case exemplifies.

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