Introduction: Bacterial tracheitis is a cause of severe upper respiratory airway obstruction. It has been considered a rare entity whose clinical and epidemiological features are not well known.
Patients and methods: The medical records of children diagnosed with bacterial tracheitis and admitted to our pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) from June 1992 to May 2004 (12 years) were analyzed. The following variables were recorded: age, sex, personal history, need for endotracheal intubation, duration of intubation, isolated bacteria, antibiotic treatment, steroid administration, and length of stay in the PICU.
Results: Twelve patients (six girls and six boys) were included in this study. Age ranged from 1 month to 13 years (median 24 months). Four children had a history of acute laryngotracheitis, one had Down syndrome and another had interauricular communication. All patients needed orotracheal intubation for 2 to 72 hours (median 48 hours). All patients received empirical antibiotic therapy: cephalosporins in 11 children (91 %) (in association with vancomycin or teicoplanin in four of them) and erythromycin in one (9 %). Corticosteroids were administered in nine patients (75 %). Bacterial pathogens were isolated from tracheal secretion culture in seven children (58 %) and the most common was Staphylococcus aureus (42 %). Three children (25 %) developed lobar pneumonia and one developed congestive cardiac insufficiency as a complication of bacterial tracheitis. In all patients, clinical outcome was satisfactory.
Conclusions: Although the absolute frequency of bacterial tracheitis is low, in our environment this entity represents a considerable cause of severe upper respiratory airway obstruction secondary to an infectious process. Therefore, it should be considered in patients who present with stridor and fever. If the correct treatment is provided, the prognosis is generally good.