Clinical and Microbiological Factors Associated With Abscess Formation in Adult Acute Epiglottitis

Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2022 Nov;131(11):1194-1201. doi: 10.1177/00034894211051817. Epub 2021 Nov 28.


Objectives: To evaluate clinical and microbiological findings that are correlated with abscess formation in adult acute epiglottitis (AE).

Methods: We reviewed 140 cases of adult AE. Demographic, clinical, imaging, and microbiological findings are analyzed for all patients with AE in comparison to those with epiglottic abscess (EA).

Results: A total of 113 patients presented with AE and 27 presented or progressed to EA (19.3%). Age, sex, seasonality, smoking, body mass index (BMI), and comorbidities were statistically insignificant between the 2 groups. Muffled voice (P < .013), respiratory distress (P < .001), and pre-existence of epiglottic cyst (P < .001) are symptoms and signs connected with abscess formation. A total of 120 patients were treated conservatively. Surgical treatment was performed on 20 patients with EA. About 72 out of 80 cultures revealed monomicrobial infection. Mixed flora was isolated in 8 patients with EA. Streptococcus was isolated in 51 out of 80 positive cultures (64%). Haemophilus Influenza (Hib) was not isolated in any sample. EA and mixed flora relates to a higher rate of airway intervention (P < .001).

Conclusion: A high level of suspicion for abscess formation is required if clinical examination reveals dyspnea, muffled voice, or an epiglottic cyst in adult with AE. The existence of EA doubles the duration of hospitalization. EA is typically found on the lingual surface of the epiglottis. Supraglottic or deep neck space expansion should be treated surgically. EA is associated with a mixed flora and a higher rate of airway obstruction. Streptococcus is discovered to be the most common pathogen.

Keywords: acute epiglottitis; airway intervention; epiglottic abscess; microbiology; supraglottitis.

MeSH terms

  • Abscess / diagnosis
  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Airway Obstruction* / diagnosis
  • Cysts*
  • Dyspnea
  • Epiglottis
  • Epiglottitis* / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Laryngeal Diseases* / complications
  • Male