Critical upper airway obstruction as the first symptom of acute myeloid leukemia - an anesthesiologic reminder
Acute upper airway obstruction can be fatal. Early recognition of airway distress followed by diagnostic laryngoscopy and prompt intervention to secure airway control is crucial. We here present a 62-year old male patient who presented with cough and increasing respiratory distress for three weeks. Within the next 24 h, he developed symptoms of critical upper airway obstruction, endotracheal intubation was not possible, and an acute surgical tracheotomy was performed to retain patent airways. A computer tomography scan revealed severe laryngopharyngeal soft tissue thickening and upper airway obstruction caused by leukemic infiltration. He was diagnosed with acute leukemia and responded to induction chemotherapy. This case report points out the importance of establishing the diagnosis of critical upper airway obstruction in patients presenting with respiratory symptoms, and highlights the emergency management of airway obstruction due to malignant infiltration of leukemic blasts.
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