What is laryngeal trauma?
A laryngeal fracture can occur following direct trauma to the neck and may lead to life-threatening airway obstruction. For this reason, a patient suspected of having a fractured larynx should be treated in an emergent manner.
How common is laryngeal trauma?
Laryngeal trauma is extremely common. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of laryngeal trauma?
The common symptoms of laryngeal trauma are:
- Difficulty speaking or making sounds
- Change in voice (hoarseness)
- Noisy breathing (stridor)
- Respiratory distress
- Complaints of neck pain or pain when swallowing or coughing
- Bruising on the neck
- Coughing blood
- Neck swelling
Trauma to the larynx may not be obvious right away. There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes laryngeal trauma?
Laryngeal fractures can be categorized as either penetrating or blunt injuries. Most commonly, trauma to the larynx occurs as a result of a motor vehicle accident or clothesline injury. A small percentage of causes include direct blows sustained during assaults, sport injuries, hanging, manual strangulation, and iatrogenic causes.
What increases my risk for laryngeal trauma?
There are many risk factors for laryngeal trauma, such as:
- Sex: Females tend to have slimmer, longer necks, predisposing them to a higher susceptibility to laryngeal trauma
- Age: Occurs more often in older children and the elderly
Diagnosis & Treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is laryngeal trauma diagnosed?
Most commonly, symptoms, direct nasopharyngoscopy, and CT scanning determine laryngeal trauma. If the trauma to the larynx is suspected, the doctor will do a few things to confirm the diagnosis.
- The doctor will assess the degree of respiratory distress and the nature of the injury.
- In cases of soft blunt trauma to the neck, the neck will be examined, specifically by touch. The doctor will feel for grating, crackling or popping sounds and sensations under the skin (called crepitus).
- If the patient’s voice is hoarse then a flexible laryngoscopy can be used in the emergency room to visualize the vocal cords for hematomas or disruption.
- If the patient’s condition is stable, they may have a CT scan of the neck and chest.
- A microlaryngoscopy and bronchoscopy to repair the airway may be necessary.
How is laryngeal trauma treated?
The goal of medical treatment is to return the patient to preinjury laryngeal function, which includes ventilation, phonation, and protection of the lower airway.
For minor injuries where the tears are significant or occur with other injury, medical treatment is appropriate. Tears of less than 2 cm have been treated effectively without surgical intervention. Typically, in such minor injuries, tracheotomy is not required; however, close clinical observation is essential in the first 24-48 hours after injury.
Systemic corticosteroids are necessary to reduce inflammation, swelling, and fibrosis. Systemic corticosteroids are helpful only in the first few days after the injury.
Antibiotics are not necessary for the treatment of minor laryngeal trauma. However, when tears are more severe, systemic antibiotics should be used to reduce the high risk of local infection
Lifestyle changes & Home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage laryngeal trauma?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with laryngeal trauma:
- Do not eat food with solid texture, a clear liquid diet is recommended.
- Bed rest is recommended for patients treated medically for laryngeal trauma, with the head of the bed elevated 30-45°.
- Voice rest is recommended to minimize edema, hematoma formation, and subcutaneous emphysema.
- Humidified air reduces crust formation and transient ciliary dysfunction.
- Supplemental oxygen is usually not needed and may be harmful in some patients (e.g., patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
- Arterial blood gas (ABG) testing can be used to determine the need for supplemental oxygen.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Laryngeal trauma. http://www.drtbalu.co.in/lary_trauma.html. Accessed Mar 17, 2017.
Resident Manual of Trauma to the Face, Head, and Neck. http://www.entnet.org/sites/default/files/Trauma-Chapter-8.pdf. Accessed Mar 17, 2017.
Laryngeal Trauma. http://www.chop.edu/conditions-diseases/laryngeal-trauma. Accessed Mar 17, 2017.
Laryngeal Fractures. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/865277-overview#a4. Accessed Mar 17, 2017.
Review Date: March 19, 2017 | Last Modified: April 23, 2017