Acute upper airway obstruction in the adult. 1. Causative disease processes.

1982 55-7; Dec;72(6):50-52

Infectious processes that can cause acute upper airway obstruction in adults include Ludwig’s angina, retropharyngeal infection, acute epiglottis, diphtheria, tetanus, and peritonsillar abscess. They are uncommon but potentially lethal. Ludwig’s angina in particular quickly progresses to airway obstruction. In most cases, the mainstays of management are antibiotics, surgical drainage, and if necessary, airway maintenance by tracheostomy, cricothyrotomy, or nasotracheal or endotracheal intubation. Hereditary angioneurotic edema causes episodes of laryngeal edema that may lead to suffocation. In an acute episode the airway must be maintained by endotracheal intubation.

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