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Cervical emphysema: an unusual presentation of laryngeal cancer

  • T Pézier (a1), B Schuknecht (a2), S Schmid (a1) and G Huber (a1)



Acute respiratory decompensation can occur on a background of slowly progressive airway compromise, for example in laryngeal squamous cell cancer. Surgeons in ENT, together with anaesthetists, are often asked to evaluate airway risk and as yet there is no widely adopted standardised approach.

Case report:

This paper reports the case of an 82-year-old male, who presented with acute airway compromise due to both endolaryngeal obstruction from a squamous cell cancer and extralaryngeal compression from massive subcutaneous emphysema.


Primary total laryngectomy was performed, but the patient declined adjuvant radiotherapy. He died a year later from a heart attack without evidence of recurrence.


To the best of our knowledge, this is the first case report of acute airway compromise from extralaryngeal subcutaneous emphysema secondary to laryngeal cancer. Options for acute airway management are discussed.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Dr T Pezier, ENT and Head and Neck Clinic, University Hospital Zurich, Frauenklinikstrasse 24, 8008 Zurich, Switzerland E-mail:


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