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Pediatric laryngeal trauma: a case series at a tertiary children's hospital.

BACKGROUND: Pediatric blunt or sharp laryngotracheal injuries are infrequent because of the softer cartilages and the protection of the prominent mandible. These injuries usually occur secondary to striking furniture or via the "clothesline" injury.

METHODS: We present five cases of pediatric laryngotracheal injury (thyroid cartilage, true vocal cords, cricoid cartilage, cricotracheal junction, and posterior tracheal wall).

RESULTS: We examined the need for intubation, need for tracheostomy, length of intubation, length of hospital stay, interval until direct laryngoscopy, use of steroids, post-injury swallowing, and post-injury phonation.

DISCUSSION: Three of the five patients were intubated either prior to arrival or upon arrival to the emergency department. Two of the patients underwent direct laryngoscopy on the day of arrival. Three patients received steroids. CT (computed tomography) was not helpful in diagnosis or decision regarding treatment. The patients with thyroid cartilage fracture, cricoid cartilage fracture, cricotracheal separation, and posterior tracheal wall tear required open repair. The tracheal wall injury, cricoid fracture, and cricotracheal separation were repaired with sutures and the thyroid cartilage fracture with a plate and screws. One tracheal stent was placed. Two open repairs were performed within 24h of injury. The patient with posterior tracheal wall injury experienced persistent dysphagia and dysphonia, which may have been secondary to intraoperative dissection.

CONCLUSION: Dyspnea was not necessarily indicative of the severity of injury in our patients. CT added little information about the integrity of the larynx not already known by physical examination. Open repair was usually indicated for the blunt neck injuries in our series. Oral intubation proved less difficult than tracheostomy in our patient with cricoid cartilage fracture.

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