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Acute epiglottitis: epidemiology, clinical presentation, management and outcome.

AIMS: To describe the incidence trends, clinical presentation, management and outcome of acute epiglottitis in a Danish population after the introduction of Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine.

METHODS: Retrospective review of the health records of all patients discharged with a diagnosis of acute epiglottitis from the otolaryngology department, Roskilde County Hospital, Denmark, from 1996 to 2005.

RESULTS: One infant and 34 adults were identified. The incidence of acute epiglottitis in children was 0.02 cases/100,000/year. Before introduction of the H influenzae type b vaccination (1983-1992), the mean national incidence of acute epiglottitis was 4.9 cases/100,000/year. The incidence of acute epiglottitis in adults was constant, with a mean value of 1.9 cases/100,000/year. Twenty-nine per cent of the patients required an artificial airway, and respiratory distress was found to be associated with airway intervention (p = 0.010). All patients recovered completely.

CONCLUSIONS: In the H influenzae type b vaccine era, acute epiglottitis in children has almost disappeared. The incidence in the adult population has been constant. A discriminate approach to airway management seems safe in adults.

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