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I completed my medical school and background EM training from India (Christian Medical College, Vellore and Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad) where I worked for 4 years. Following this, I devoted (with all my heart) about 1.5 years to do US Medical Licensing Exams. My stint towards an EM Residency in States did not work but it took me to places and it has been quite a journey. I then relocated to London, England to work as a Registrar (Non-Trainee) in A&E. This gave me an opportunity to better understand NHS, EM training pathways and more importantly the EM Mindsets in the United Kingdom. 

Currently, I am pursuing Higher Specialist Training in Emergency Medicine at South East Scotland Deanery where I have the honour and privilege of training under some of the most innovative brains in the field of Emergency Medicine. Over the past few years, I have realised that LEARNING and UNLEARNING (which can be challenging!) is equally important to deliver cutting edge care to our patients.And through this blog, I aspire to disseminate knowledge, assist trainees with exams and stay up to date with contemporary EM literature. I have always been an avid FOAMed supporter because FOAMed has always played an indispensable role during my training. 

Lakshay Chanana
ST4 EM Trainee 
Edinburgh, Scotland

Monday, January 8, 2018

Croup - Laryngotracheobronchitis

Viral Laryngotracheobronchitis (Croup) is the most common cause of stridor commonly affecting children between 6 months to 6 years old, with a peak in the fall and early winter months. Croup is acquired through inhalation of the virus. 

Possible agents could be parainfluenza virus (most common), rhinovirus. enterovirus, respiratory syncytial virus, influenza virus and human metapneumovirus.

Clinical Presentation 
Typically, symptoms begin after 1 to 3 days of URTI symptoms (nasal congestion, rhinorrhea, cough, and low-grade fever). Classic symptoms include a harsh barking cough, hoarse voice, and stridor. Symptoms often tend to be worse at night and the severity of symptoms is related to the amount of edema and inflammation of the airway. 

Diagnosis and Assessment of Severity 
Look for tachypnea, stridor at rest, nasal flaring, retractions, lethargy or agitation, and oxygen desaturation. Symptoms are most severe on 3rd or 4th day of illness. Agitation and crying increase oxygen demand and may worsen airway compromise. Bloods and imaging are only required in children who fail to respond to conventional therapy. X Rays may demonstrate “steeple sign” (subglottic narrowing)

Steeple Sign
Croup is a clinical diagnosis
Steeple sign may be present in normal children and can be absent in up to half of those with croup

Treatment is directed at decreasing airway obstruction and keeping the child comfortable 
  • CorticosteroidsAll patients with croup get steroids as a one- time dose (PO/IM/IV). Steroids reduce the severity and duration of symptoms and result in a decrease in return visits and hospital length of stay. The long half-life of dexamethasone (36-54 h) often allows for a single injection. Studies have shown that dexamethasone dosed at 0.15 mg/kg is as effective as 0.3 mg/kg or 0.6 mg/kg (with a maximum daily dose of 10 mg). Effects can be seen within 1 hour of oral administration. Nebulized budesonide 2 mg as a single dose and IM dexamethasone (0.6mg/kg) are alternatives to PO dexamethasone in children who are vomiting.
Treatment of croup: Nebulized epinephrine for moderate to severe croup and corticosteroids for all

  • EpinephrineEpinephrine comes as two different forms: racemic, which is composed of equal parts of L- and D-isomers, and L-epinephrine, which is the drug routinely used in acute situations in concentrations of 1:1000 and 1:10,000. 
  • L-Epinephrine (1:1000): 0.5 ml/kg neb or 5ml maximum  
  • Racemic Epinephrine (2.25%): 0.05ml/kg neb or max 0.5ml
Mild croup generally does not require epinephrine. For those with moderate or severe croup who receive nebulized epinephrine, observe in the ED for at least 3 hours before considering discharge. Epinephrine decreases airway edema through vasoconstrictive alpha effects and acts wishing 10-min lasting up to 2 hours. The use of Adrenaline decreases the number of children with croup requiring intubation, ITU admissions, and admission to the hospital. 

Observation for about 3 hours is recommended because an increase in croup scores can occur between doses of epinephrine nebulisation

  • Intubation is reserved for cases of severe croup not responding to medical treatment. When intubation is necessary, use endotracheal tubes smaller than recommended for patient size and age to avoid traumatizing the inflamed mucosa. 

Treatment options with limited evidence: 
  • Cool Mist: Humidified air was used to treat croup, but they are no longer recommended as studies have consistently failed to show clinical improvement with these interventions.
  • Heliox (70% helium/30% oxygen): Despite its theoretical benefits, studies show no definitive advantage of heliox over conventional treatment.24-28
  • Beta 2 Agonists: Insufficient data. Concerns about risk of worsening upper airway obstruction as β-receptors on the vasculature cause vasodilation (as compared to the vasoconstrictive α effects of epinephrine), which might worsen upper airway edema in croup, and there is no smooth muscle in the upper airway. Therefore, β-agonists are not recommended for treatment of croup.
  • Antibiotics have no role in uncomplicated croup 
  • Antitussives have no proven effect on the course or severity of croup and may increase sedation

Differential Diagnosis (Consider if no relief with Rx)
  • Bacterial tracheitis
  • Laryngomalacia
  • Tracheomalacia
  • Vascular rings
  • Epiglottitis (unlikely if vaccinated)
  • Foreign body aspiration
  • Peritonsillar abscess
  • Retropharyngeal abscess
  • Tracheo-esophageal fistula

  • Moderate to Severe Croup
  • Looking toxic and not tolerating oral fluids
  • Comorbidities 
  • Social Issues
  • Persistent stridor at rest, tachypnea, retractions, and hypoxia

Discharge Advice 

  • Advise the parents/carers to use either paracetamol or ibuprofen to treat a child who is distressed due to fever. 
  • Encourage the child to take fluids regularly.
  • To check on the child regularly, including through the night.

References and Further Reading :
  1. https://cks.nice.org.uk/croup#!scenario
  2. http://www.ebmedicine.net/topics.php?paction=showTopic&topic_id=334
  3. Russell KF, Liang Y, O’Gorman K, Johnson DW, Klassen TP. Glucocorticoids for croup. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD001955.
  4. Johnson DW. Croup. BMJ Clin Evid. 2009; 2009: 0321.
  5. Bjornson, C.L. and and Johnson, D.W. (2013)  Croup in children. CMAJ. 185(15), 1317-1323

    Posted by:

         Lakshay Chanana
         Speciality Doctor
         Northwick Park Hospital
         Department of Emergency Medicine




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