Paediatric airway emergencies in Northern Ireland, 1990-2003

B Devlin, K Golchin, R Adair
Journal of Laryngology and Otology 2007, 121 (7): 659-63
The management of paediatric airway emergencies is part of ENT practice. The most common conditions are acute viral laryngotracheobronchitis (croup), acute epiglottitis and bacterial tracheitis. Management of these conditions is significantly different and accurate diagnosis is crucial. We performed a retrospective analysis of all acute airway admissions to the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children from 1990 to 2003. The results showed a gradual decrease in the number of admissions due to croup. Acute epiglottitis admissions decreased markedly after 1992 but rose again in 2000, with a peak in 2002. Bacterial tracheitis is now the most common paediatric airway emergency requiring PICU admission and its incidence has been steadily increasing since 1990, peaking in 2003. The total number of admissions showed little change over the 14-year period audited. The significant shift in the nature of these conditions and these findings confirm the ongoing requirement for caution in dealing with a suspected airway emergency.

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