Objectives: To demonstrate the diverse causes and manifestations of blunt laryngotracheal trauma in children, and to recommend an appropriate treatment protocol for these patients.
Design: A retrospective review of the medical records of patients treated at a tertiary care children's hospital for blunt laryngotracheal trauma during the 12 years before March 1, 1995 was performed. Clinical signs and symptoms, mechanisms of injury, and the results of laryngoscopy were included.
Patients: The study included 23 patients ranging from 2 1/2 to 18 1/2 years of age. The medical records of patients who had sustained an injury as a result of penetrating trauma, intubation, or foreign body were excluded.
Results: Four patients urgently required tracheotomies; 2 of these patients required subsequent reconstructive airway procedures. One child required a microlaryngoscopy with relocation of the arytenoid cartilage. The remaining 18 patients were treated conservatively with continuous pulse oximetry, cool mist room air, and serial flexible fiberoptic laryngoscopy. The 18 patients were discharged from the hospital after 24 to 48 hours of observation without sequelae.
Conclusions: The signs and symptoms of blunt laryngotracheal trauma in children are not always specific to the extent or type of injury. A prompt diagnosis and treatment plan are needed to prevent potentially catastrophic complications. Patients with obvious airway compromise require immediate intervention. Those without acute airway symptoms often can be treated conservatively, provided that flexible fiberoptic laryngoscopy confirms a safe airway.