Epiglottitis in the United States: National trends, variances, prognosis, and management


  • Rahul K. Shah MD, FACS,

    Corresponding author
    1. Division of Otolaryngology, Children's National Medical Center, The George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, DC, U.S.A.
    • Division of Otolaryngology, Children's National Medical Center, 111 Michigan Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20010
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Carol Stocks RN, MHSA

    1. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Center for Delivery, Organization, and Markets, Rockville, Maryland, U.S.A.
    2. Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.A.
    Search for more papers by this author

  • The authors have no funding, financial relationships, or conflicts of interest to disclose.

  • This article does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, or the US Department of Health and Human Services; the authors are solely responsible for its content.



To study national trends, variances, and outcomes in patients admitted with epiglottitis in the United States. We hypothesize that the incidence of epiglottitis has decreased, mortality has decreased, and that there has been a shift toward older patients being admitted with epiglottitis.

Study Design:

Retrospective review of a dataset for years 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006.


The Nationwide Inpatient Sample was searched using ICD-9 CM codes for epiglottitis with obstruction (464.30) and without obstruction (464.31). Characteristics studied included patient demographics, hospital information, and admission variables. Weighted admissions were analyzed to facilitate national estimates.


There was a trend toward decreasing admissions over the study period, from 4587.17 cases (1998) to 3772.49 cases (2006); the mean over the study period was 4062.52 cases/year. The mean age of a patient with epiglottitis has remained relatively constant at 44.94 years over the study period; there are less frequent admissions in the 18 years and younger age cohorts, with an increase in the ages 45 to 64 years old and in patients over 85 years old. Mean length of stay is 4.15 days. Mean total charges for an admission of epiglottitis was $17,204.02 (standard deviation, $5,894). There was a trend toward increased total charges for the management of epiglottitis from total charges of $10,738.60 (1998) to $25,071.62 (2006). The South had a predominantly higher proportion of epiglottitis admissions during the study period. The gender distribution remained consistent over the study years at approximately 60:40 for males:female. Mortality remained constant at approximately 36 cases per year for a national mortality rate from epiglottitis of 0.89%. The month with the highest percentage of admissions was December; April was the month with the lowest. The majority of admissions were via the emergency department; patients were transferred in 2.88% of admissions. Over two thirds of admissions were Caucasian patients. Hospital level measures included the majority of patients were treated in an urban hospital location (82%); a minority (41%) were treated at a teaching hospital. Insurance status was private insurance in 50.02%, Medicare 20.84%, and Medicaid 12.46%. The proportion of patients that were intubated was 13.18%; 3.62% underwent a tracheotomy. Additional diagnoses in admitted patients included concomitant cardiovascular (38.75%), infectious (27.17%), respiratory (22.88%), diabetes (13.26%), and substance abuse (18.86%) diagnoses.


An 8-year retrospective review of epiglottitis admissions revealed that epiglottitis continues to be a significant clinical entity in the United States. The portrait of a typical patient that will be admitted with epiglottitis is a mid–40-year-old, Caucasian, urban, male, with comorbid medical conditions, who will remain in the hospital on average for 4 days, resulting in total charges of $25,072 (2006 dollars). The majority of the mortalities are in adult patients. The majority of patients with epiglottitis has significant medical comorbid conditions and will be managed at the admitting hospital and not be transferred. This series identifies two newly recognized and uniquely vulnerable populations for epiglottitis: infants (<1 year old) and the elderly (patients >85 years old). Laryngoscope, 2010