Functional airway obstruction presenting as stridor: a case report and literature review

J Emerg Med. 1990 May-Jun;8(3):285-9. doi: 10.1016/0736-4679(90)90007-i.


We report the case of a young man who presented to 3 emergency departments with apparent upper airway obstruction and was intubated each time before being diagnosed with paradoxical vocal cord motion. His previous discharge diagnoses were laryngeal edema secondary to anaphylaxis, even though he had no other objective findings of IgE-mediated disease. Flexible fiberoptic laryngoscopy demonstrated tight apposition of the vocal cords during inspiration while symptomatic, but normal movement when asymptomatic. Psychiatric evaluation revealed severe posttraumatic stress disorder. Of the approximately 41 reported cases of functional airway obstruction in the medical literature, only two have been adult males and none have been associated with posttraumatic stress disorder. The current literature is reviewed, and an approach to evaluation and management of such patients is provided.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Airway Obstruction / diagnosis
  • Airway Obstruction / etiology*
  • Emergencies
  • Humans
  • Laryngoscopy
  • Male
  • Respiratory Sounds / etiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / complications*