Subcutaneous emphysema and mediastinitis: Unusual complications of tonsillectomy


Department of Otorhinolaryngology, C.H.U. Liège

B-ENT 2005; 1: 197-200
Read: 799 Downloads: 545 Published: 22 February 2020

Subcutaneous emphysema and mediastinitis: Unusual complications of tonsillectomy: Introduction: Subcutaneous emphysema and mediastinitis are rarely reported complications of tonsillectomy.

Case report: We describe two patients who developed subcutaneous emphysema, one of them with mediastinitis, within a few days after tonsillectomy. The diagnosis was based on the clinical presentation and confirmed by computed tomography (CT). For the patient without mediastinitis, the emphysema disappeared after a short period of reintubation and administration of antibiotics. For the patient with mediastinitis, surgical drainage of a cervico-mediastinal purulent collection was necessary to obtain healing.

Discussion: The events leading to subcutaneous emphysema and mediastinitis have not been entirely clarified. They probably include direct introduction of air into the neck via either the tonsillar bed or a laryngeal or pharyngeal wound caused by intubation. The clinical presentation, treatment and possible pathophysiology of subcutaneous emphysema and medisastinits are discussed.

Conclusion: Emphysema and mediastinitis after tonsillectomy occur seldomly. If rapidly recognised and appropriately managed, mortality can be avoided.

EISSN 2684-4907