Epiglottitis in the Hemophilus influenzae type B vaccine era: changing trends

Laryngoscope. 2004 Mar;114(3):557-60. doi: 10.1097/00005537-200403000-00031.


Objective: To describe the epidemiology, natural history, and treatment of epiglottitis in the Hemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) vaccine era.

Design: Ten-year retrospective study.

Setting: Tertiary-care children's hospital.

Patients: Nineteen patients with a discharge diagnosis of epiglottitis.

Intervention: As indicated by the presentation of the patient, including direct laryngoscopy, intubation, intravenous antibiotics, and steroids.

Main outcome measures: Presentation, management, and microbiology.

Results: Presenting symptoms included fever, drooling, and hot potato voice. Patients' ages ranged from 15.8 months to 17.5 (mean 8.9) years. From 1992 to 1997, the mean age was 5.8 years; from 1998 to 2002, the mean age was 11.6 years. Sixty-eight percent of patients were transferred from an outside hospital. A lateral neck radiograph was recorded in 84% of patients. Mean leukocyte count was 16600. Direct laryngoscopy with intubation was performed in 79%; intubation was for an average of 3.5 days. H. influenzae was cultured in six patients, five of which had up-to-date immunizations. The most commonly administered antibiotics were ampicillin/sulbactam and ceftriaxone. Steroids were administered to 63% of patients. Complications included deep neck space infection (2), seizure (1), recurrent illness (1), and vocal granuloma (1). There were no deaths.

Conclusion: The demographics, causative organisms, and natural history of epiglottitis have changed substantially in the Hib vaccination era. The clinician evaluating and treating patients with epiglottitis should be aware of current trends.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Algorithms
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Boston / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Epiglottitis / drug therapy
  • Epiglottitis / epidemiology
  • Epiglottitis / microbiology*
  • Female
  • Haemophilus Infections / drug therapy
  • Haemophilus Infections / epidemiology
  • Haemophilus Infections / prevention & control*
  • Haemophilus Vaccines*
  • Haemophilus influenzae / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Haemophilus Vaccines