Nontraumatic laryngeal fractures are exceedingly rare disease entities. Only 3 prior instances have been described in the medical literature (Br Med J 1950;1:1052; Acta Otorrinolaringol Esp 2007;58:73-4; Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2012;147:801-2). We present a case of thyroid cartilage fracture and associated phlegmon formation after a vigorous coughing spell in a 47-year-old man. On presentation, the patient's symptoms included the triad of odynophagia, dysphagia, and dysphonia as well as diffuse swelling and tenderness over the thyroid cartilage. Computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging revealed a mildly displaced anterior thyroid cartilage fracture as well as a phlegmon in the strap muscle compartment adjacent to the fracture (Figs. 1 and 2). Intravenous dexamethasone and antibiotics were initiated, and the patient was admitted to the medical intensive care unit. On fiberoptic examination with the flexible laryngoscope, the patient was found to have slightto- moderate watery edema of the right aryepiglottic fold and right greater than left arytenoid cartilages. After 48 hours, the patient's neck swelling and pain significantly improved. On hospital day 4, the patient was discharged with a course of oral antibiotics. One week later, the patient reported only mild odynophagia and persistent dysphonia. He otherwise felt well and was tolerating fluids and soft food without difficulty. A preexisting, congenital abnormality resulting in a focal weakness in the thyroid cartilage might predispose patients to nontraumatic fractures (Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2012;147:801-2). Patients in prior case reports of nontraumatic laryngeal fractures presented with similar symptoms (Table). The triad of odynophagia, dysphagia, and dysphonia after a severe coughing or sneezing episode should raise the clinician's suspicion of a thyroid cartilage fracture.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Emergency Medicine