Objectives: To present a potentially life-threatening manifestation of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), laryngospasm. This review covers the diagnosis and management of eight patients treated by the authors.
Study design: A retrospective analysis of 8 consecutive patients who were referred for the evaluation of unexplained laryngospasm. The medical therapy and lifestyle modifications of treatment are discussed.
Methods: The patient records were reviewed and tabulated for age, onset of symptoms, and history of GERD; the presence of an associated upper respiratory infection with persistent cough; and the development of syncope in the presence of laryngospasm.
Results: All 8 patients had initial control of laryngospasm. Three had complete control without relapse, 3 had initial control with rare relapse of mild laryngospasm, and 2 patients had initial control with frequent relapses. Six of the 8 had syncopal episodes as a consequence of the laryngospasm. All patients were initially treated with a proton pump inhibitor. Five of the 8 required the addition of an esophageal prokinetic agent to control the reflux and subsequent laryngospasm. Two patients are off all medications at the time of this writing and 4 of the 8 have had rare relapses after initial control of symptoms. Once control of the laryngospasm had been achieved, there were no subsequent episodes of syncope.
Conclusions: Based on the data collected in these 8 individuals, patients with reflux disease (known or unknown) can develop severe laryngospasm and possible syncope. The key factor seems to be the association of a recent or concurrent upper respiratory infection that results in a protracted cough that is more severe when supine and at times violent. The cough increases the amount of the refluxate, which is the noxious insult to the larynx.