Diagnosis and management of Ludwig's angina: An evidence-based review

Am J Emerg Med. 2021 Mar:41:1-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2020.12.030. Epub 2020 Dec 23.


Background: Ludwig's angina is a potentially deadly condition that must not be missed in the emergency department (ED).

Objective: The purpose of this narrative review article is to provide a summary of the epidemiology, pathophysiology, diagnosis, and management of Ludwig's angina with a focus on emergency clinicians.

Discussion: Ludwig's angina is a rapidly spreading infection that involves the floor of the mouth. It occurs more commonly in those with poor dentition or immunosuppression. Patients may have a woody or indurated floor of the mouth with submandibular swelling. Trismus is a late finding. Computed tomography of the neck soft tissue with contrast is preferred if the patient is able to safely leave the ED and can tolerate lying supine. Point-of-care ultrasound can be a useful adjunct, particularly in those who cannot tolerate lying supine. Due to the threat of rapid airway compromise, emergent consultation to anesthesia and otolaryngology, if available, may be helpful if a definitive airway is required. The first line approach for airway intervention in the ED is flexible intubating endoscopy with preparation for a surgical airway. Broad spectrum antibiotics and surgical source control are keys in treating the infection. These patients should then be admitted to the intensive care unit for close airway observation.

Conclusion: Ludwig's angina is a life-threatening condition that all emergency clinicians need to consider. It is important for clinicians to be aware of the current evidence regarding the diagnosis, management, and disposition of these patients.

Keywords: Airway; Infectious disease; Otolaryngology; Submandibular; ludwig's angina.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Ludwig's Angina* / diagnosis
  • Ludwig's Angina* / epidemiology
  • Ludwig's Angina* / physiopathology
  • Ludwig's Angina* / therapy