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The management of recurrent croup in children.

OBJECTIVE: To review the aetiology, investigation, diagnosis, treatment and clinical outcome of children with recurrent croup.

METHOD: Retrospective case note review of all children with recurrent croup referred to the otolaryngology service at our hospital from November 2002 to March 2011.

RESULTS: Ninety children with recurrent croup were identified. Twenty-five children (28 per cent) had anatomical airway abnormalities, of which 16 (18 per cent) demonstrated degrees of subglottic stenosis. Twenty-three children (26 per cent) had positive microlaryngobronchoscopy findings suggestive of reflux. Eleven children were treated for gastroesophageal reflux disease, 10 (91 per cent) of whom responded well to anti-reflux medication (p = 0.006). No cause was identified for 41 (45 per cent) of the children; this was the group most likely to continue having episodes of croup at follow up. One death occurred in this group.

CONCLUSION: Airway anomalies are common in children that present with recurrent croup. Laryngobronchoscopy allows identification of the cause of croup and enables a more accurate prognosis. In the current study, laryngobronchoscopy findings that indicated reflux were predictive of benefit from anti-reflux medications, whereas the clinical presentation of reflux was not. Routine measurement of immunoglobulin E and complement proteins did not appear to be helpful.

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