Adult epiglottitis: Trends and predictors of mortality in over 30 thousand cases from 2007 to 2014

Laryngoscope. 2019 May;129(5):1107-1112. doi: 10.1002/lary.27741. Epub 2018 Dec 24.


Objectives: To characterize trends of adult epiglottitis presenting to the emergency department (ED) and analyze mortality.

Methods: We utilized the National Emergency Department Sample to characterize adult epiglottitis from 2007 to 2014 and used provided weights to obtain nationally representative data (all presented data are weighted). Univariate and multivariate analyses were conducted to determine predictors of mortality.

Results: A total of 33,549 cases were identified (weighted). Over the study period, the average patient age increased significantly from 47 to 51 (R2 > 0.5), with an overall mean age of 49. A total of 11.8% of patients were coded as having obstruction, and 68.3% of cases were admitted to the hospital. Across all years, < 1% received laryngoscopic or airway procedures in the ED. Utilization of both X-ray and computed tomography was <10%. Over the 8 years, there were an average of 42 deaths per year (1.01% overall mortality). No clinical factors, except obstruction, were significant on univariate analysis (P < 0.05). Multivariate analysis indicated that patient age, degree of hospital urbanization, and smoking status also were nonsignificant.

Conclusions: Epiglottitis is still a significant pathology seen in EDs, is stable over the study period, and carries a mortality risk. There is an exceptionally low rate of documented clinical interventions in the ED, especially compared with inpatient studies of epiglottis. This suggests a lack of recognition of the need and utilization of critical airway interventions early in the patient encounter. Future research is needed to characterize the reasons for the low rate of early airway visualization and intervention of epiglottitis in the ED.

Level of evidence: 4 Laryngoscope, 129:1107-1112, 2019.

Keywords: Adult epiglottitis; airway intervention; mortality; nationwide emergency department sample.

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Epiglottitis / mortality*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors