When an individual ends up with a fractured larynx, it typically occurs once a direct force causes a break in the voice box. This is considered as a rare injury but potentially life-threatening and entails immediate medical attention. Remember that any form of fracture even a minor one entails medical care so that proper assessment and treatment can be carried out to facilitate the healing process.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of a fractured larynx typically include pain in the throat especially when the individual swallows. In most cases, the individual will have a hoarse voice or even lose his/her voice. There is also shortness of breath or coughing up frothy blood. In addition, there is also swelling in the front part of the throat in which the cartilage has been disrupted.
What are the possible causes?
The larynx or voice box is positioned at the front part of the neck, at the upper part of the trachea or windpipe.
A fractured larynx tends to occur after a direct impact to the front part of the neck. This is quite common in road traffic accidents but can also occur during “washing line” tackles in which the arm is raised to throat level as the opponents runs past. Fractures involving the larynx can be categorized into 4 main groups.
- Group 1 includes minor injuries with only mild respiratory symptoms
- Group 2 includes moderate injuries with a certain degree of airway compromise and minimal mucosal disruption.
- Group 3 and 4 include the serious injuries involving severe airway compromise, substantial swelling, mucosal tears, cartilage exposure and vocal cord immobility. The only difference between group 3 and 4 is the treatment provided in group 4 injuries requires the placement of a stent.
Once a fractured larynx is suspected, it is vital to seek immediate medical attention. If the individual experiences breathing difficulties, you can to call for emergency assistance right away.
An X-ray is requested by the doctor in order to exclude fractures on the cervical region of the vertebrae. A CT scan is also requested by the doctor out to confirm an analysis of a fractured larynx.
- For the group 1 injuries, they are managed with monitoring, bed rest with the head of the individual elevated and using humidified air. The individual must rest his/her voice and nil-by-mouth can also be advised in the short term.
- For group 2 injuries, they are managed with a tracheostomy to allow normal breathing if the airways are involved and the doctor will perform direct laryngoscopy.
- For group 3 injuries, they are managed similarly with the group 2 injuries along with surgical repair.
- For group 4 injuries, the treatment is similar with group 3 injuries with the addition of a stent placement which is a tube that keeps the larynx and trachea open.