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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 16  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 81-84  

Pediatric otorhinolaryngology emergencies at the Jos University Teaching Hospital: Study of frequency, management, and outcomes

Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, Jos University Teaching Hospital, Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria

Date of Web Publication27-Apr-2017

Correspondence Address:
Adeyi A Adoga
Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, Jos University Teaching Hospital, PMB 2076, Jos, Plateau State
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/aam.aam_21_16

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Background: Studies from Nigeria on pediatric otorhinolaryngology (ORL) emergencies are rare in literature with most focusing on emergencies involving individual systems. Objective: The aim of this study is to determine the prevalence of all ORL emergencies among children in our region to provide a baseline data for future health planning. Patients and Methods: This is a 1-year retrospective cross-sectional study of patients aged 16 years and below presenting to the Accident and Emergency Department of the Jos University Teaching Hospital, Jos, Nigeria. Results: A total of 203 otolaryngology emergencies were attended of which 129 (63.5%) were pediatric emergencies. Records of 87 patients were retrievable with age range 2 months to 15 years (mean 3.44 years; standard deviation ± 3.35). There were 55 males and 32 females with a male to female ratio of 1.7:1. The majority of cases were aged under 5 years (64; 73.6%). Acute tonsillitis accounted for 32 (36.7%) cases with 6 (6.9%) having peritonsillar abscesses. Acute pharyngitis accounted for 11 (12.6%) presentations followed closely by foreign bodies (FBs) in the ear with 10 (11.5%) presentations. FB in the throat occurred in 4 (4.6%) patients who had removal under general anesthesia. Three (3.4%) cases of maxillofacial injuries occurred as a result of insurgent terror attacks and 3.4% presented following corrosive substance ingestion. Conservative management was commenced in 76 (87.4%) patients, 23 (26.4%) had surgery with 68 (78.2%) admitted and discharged, 18 (20.7%) treated as outpatients, and 1 (1.1%) died on admission. Otolaryngologists attended most (95.4%) patients. Conclusion: Pediatric ORL emergencies are common in our region involving a wide range of pathologies. Expansion is required in the ORL training of the emergency room physician to enhance emergency services.

   Abstract in French 

Contexte: Les études menées au Nigéria sur les urgences en ORL sont rares dans la littérature, la plupart se concentrant sur des situations d'urgence impliquant des systèmes individuels. Objectif: Le but de cette étude est de déterminer la prévalence de toutes les urgences ORL chez les enfants de notre région afin de fournir des données de base pour la planification future de la santé. Patients et Méthodes: Il s'agit d'une étude transversale rétrospective d'un an portant sur des patients âgés de 16 ans et moins présentés au Service d'Urgence et d'Urgence de l'Hôpital Universitaire Jos, Jos, Nigeria. Résultats: Au total, 203 urgences oto-rhino-laryngologiques ont été observées, dont 129 (63,5%) étaient des urgences pédiatriques. Les dossiers de 87 patients étaient récupérables avec une tranche d'âge de 2 mois à 15 ans (moyenne de 3,44 ans, écart type ± 3,35). Il y avait 55 hommes et 32 femmes avec un rapport mâle à femme de 1,7: 1. La majorité des cas étaient âgés de moins de 5 ans (64, 73,6%). Les amygdalites aiguës ont représenté 32 (36,7%) cas avec 6 (6,9%) abcès péritonsillaires. La pharyngite aiguë a représenté 11 (12,6%) présentations suivies de près par des corps étrangers (FB) dans l'oreille avec 10 (11,5%) présentations. FB dans la gorge est survenu chez 4 (4,6%) patients ayant subi une exérèse sous anesthésie générale. Trois (3,4%) cas de lésions maxillo-faciales ont été causés par des attaques terroristes et 3,4% par des substances corrosives. La prise en charge conservatrice a débuté chez 76 patients (87,4%), 23 (26,4%) ont subi une intervention chirurgicale, 68 (78,2%) ont été hospitalisés et 18 (20,7%) patients ambulatoires. Les oto-rhino-laryngologues ont fréquenté la plupart des patients (95,4%). Conclusion: Les urgences ORL pédiatriques sont fréquentes dans notre région et impliquent un large éventail de pathologies. L'agrandissement est nécessaire dans la formation ORL du médecin de salle d'urgence pour améliorer les services d'urgence.
Mots-clés: Enfants, Jos-Nigeria, urgence otorhinolaryngology

Keywords: Children, Jos-Nigeria, otorhinolaryngology emergency

How to cite this article:
Adoga AA, Okwori ET, Yaro JP, Iduh AA. Pediatric otorhinolaryngology emergencies at the Jos University Teaching Hospital: Study of frequency, management, and outcomes. Ann Afr Med 2017;16:81-4

How to cite this URL:
Adoga AA, Okwori ET, Yaro JP, Iduh AA. Pediatric otorhinolaryngology emergencies at the Jos University Teaching Hospital: Study of frequency, management, and outcomes. Ann Afr Med [serial online] 2017 [cited 2022 Oct 7];16:81-4. Available from:

   Introduction Top

Emergency medicine refers to the medical specialty dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of unforeseen illness or injury and involves the initial evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, and disposition of patients requiring urgent medical, surgical, or psychiatric treatment.[1]

This practice can be undertaken in a hospital-based or freestanding emergency department, urgent care clinic, an emergency medical response vehicle, or at a disaster site.

Otorhinolaryngology (ORL) emergencies occur virtually in all communities, and those involving the pediatric age group are considered of great importance as their management differs from those of adults because of life-threatening complications such as airway obstruction. Therefore, they deserve efficient skills and adequate equipment for accurate diagnoses, and early intervention to reduce morbidity and mortality.

These emergencies range from less severe inflammatory presentations of pharyngotonsillitis and acute suppurative otitis media to life-threatening airway obstruction resulting from foreign bodies (FBs) in the airway.

Pediatric ORL emergencies account for one-third of all ORL emergencies.[2],[3]

In a study done in the United States, it was recorded that children accounted for 10%–40% of the total number of patients presenting to the Emergency Department.[4]

Studies from Nigeria only give epidemiological data for pediatric ORL emergencies involving individual systems.[5],[6],[7]

This study aims to determine the prevalence of all ORL emergencies among children in our region, their demographic characteristics, and the type of treatment instituted with the outcomes of treatment to provide a baseline data for future health planning.

   Patients and Methods Top

Study design

This is a 1-year (January 27, 2013–January 26, 2014) retrospective cross-sectional study of patients aged 16 years and below presenting to the Accident and Emergency Department of the Jos University Teaching Hospital. Approval for this study was obtained from the Ethical Clearance Committee of the teaching hospital.


Records for the patients seen during the study were obtained and analyzed for age, gender, and time of presentation, the pathology at presentation, the treatment modality offered, and the outcome of treatment.

Statistical analysis

Data obtained was entered into the Statistical Products and Services Solutions (SPSS) software version 16 (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA) and analyzed.

The results are presented in simple descriptive tables.

   Results Top

A total of 203 otolaryngology emergencies were attended during the study of which 129 (63.5%) were pediatric emergencies. The records of 87 patients were retrievable, and these were analyzed. The patients were aged between 2 months and 15 years with a mean age of 3.44 years (standard deviation [SD] ±3.35). There were 55 males and 32 females giving a male to female ratio of 1.7:1. The majority of patients were under 5 years of age (64; 73.6%) [Table 1].
Table 1: Age and gender characteristics

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The time of presentation of patients ranged from <1 to 12 days (mean = 3.44 days; SD ± 2.53).

Acute tonsillitis accounted for 32 (36.7%) presentations and 6 (6.9%) of these presented with peritonsillar abscess, and they all had incision and drainage of their abscesses but only two represented to have interval tonsillectomy which is our departmental management policy for a peritonsillar abscess. Acute pharyngitis accounted for 11 (12.6%) presentations followed closely by FB in the ear with 10 (11.5%) presentations [Table 2] of which beads were the most common, and others being paper, earrings, and bean seeds in ascending order of frequency which were all removed under direct vision with Jobson Horne probe and Tilley's forceps. FB in the throat occurred in 4 (4.6%) patients who had removal under general anesthesia with 1 (1.1%) patient requiring an emergency tracheostomy; the others were removed from the pharynx at attempted oroendotracheal intubation. All patients with acute infective conditions were managed conservatively at initial presentation.
Table 2: Presentation of otorhinolaryngology emergencies

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The 3 (3.4%) cases of maxillofacial injuries presenting in this study were as a result of insurgent terror attacks on rural communities. These were carefully repaired and the patients discharged without events.

Three (3.4%) patients presented following corrosive substance ingestion (alkali in all cases). They had nasogastric tube insertion at presentation, admitted, and managed conservatively. Management of these patients was multidisciplinary involving the cardiothoracic surgery team.

Patients presenting with epistaxis were managed by nasal packing with gauze packs and insertion of merocel.

Medical management was commenced for 76 (87.4%) patients attended and eventually, a total of 23 (26.4%) had surgical intervention due to failure of medical treatment in 12 (13.8%) patients. Sixty-eight (78.2%) were admitted and discharged, 18 (20.7%) treated as outpatients, whereas 1 (1.1%) patient died on admission [Table 3].
Table 3: Type of treatment and out

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The attending doctors at presentation were 83 (95.4%) patients by otolaryngologists and 4 (4.6%) by medical officers in the Accident and Emergency Department who referred to the otolaryngology department following stabilization of patients.

   Discussion Top

Literature on pediatric ORL emergencies is scarce, especially in Nigeria with most studies on the epidemiology of individual pediatric ORL emergencies.

This study shows a significant prevalence (63.5%) of attended pediatric ORL emergencies with the majority of patients aged between 2 months and 5 years. A hospital-based study among all age groups from Korle-Bu, Ghana recorded a peak age incidence of 0–9 years.[8]

Acute infections of the ear, nose, and throat is one of the most common causes of pediatric emergency presentations,[9] and this study shows acute tonsillitis to be the most common with 6.9% presenting as peritonsillar abscesses. This is similar to the study by Fernández Cano and Martín Carballo.[10] About 75% of tonsillitis occurring in children is caused by viruses, but most of these cases are treated with antibiotics because though many clinical criteria exist for differentiating bacterial from viral tonsillitis, their sensitivity for identifying one from the other is low.[11],[12],[13] All patients (n = 6) presenting with a peritonsillar abscess in this study had incision and drainage of their abscesses, but only two presented to have interval tonsillectomy which is the management protocol of our department. The rest of the patients were lost to follow-up a common phenomenon among patients in our environment.

All our patients with acute tonsillitis were admitted and commenced on parenteral antibiotics. The main aim is to decrease the possibility of suppurative and nonsuppurative complications associated with Group A beta-hemolytic Streptococcus infection and to minimize its transmission in the community.[13]

Acute suppurative otitis media is the second most prevalent otologic manifestation recorded in this study [Table 2]. Acute otitis media is common in children, and it is due to the wider and more horizontally-oriented eustachian tube in this age group resulting in translocation of infection from the pharynx to the tympanic cavity. It accounts for one-third of the pathology seen in the first 5-year life.[14] These children will present with fever and otalgia; therefore, otoscopy is highly recommended to commence early treatment and prevent the lifelong sequel of impairment of hearing and speech acquisition.

Most studies record FB as the most common pediatric emergency presentation [9],[15],[16] which contrasts with our finding, in which FB accounted for the second largest group of emergencies. Children are continually exploring their surroundings and tend to place objects in the ear, nose, and throat passages constituting major morbidity and mortality. FB in the throat/airway are a major threat to life and should be managed by the otolaryngologist usually under general anesthesia as it is shown in our study. Those occurring in the ear and nose are usually not considered as emergencies, but their management should be executed by the skilled physician, especially FB in the ear in, which attempts at removal by the unskilled can result in damage to the tympanic membrane and middle ear structures including the facial nerve.[17]

Injuries occurring in children are not uncommon. They are an avoidable cause of disability.[18] With the increase in the incidence of insurgent terror attacks on communities in our region, injuries of various kinds have been recorded,[19] and unfortunately, children are not spared in these events as is seen in the present study. The majority of those affected do not make it to the hospital alive. Reducing the incidence of insurgent attacks and communal clashes is the responsibility of government and can be achieved by the improvement of human development via reduction of poverty, improvement of the economy and job creation.

Airway management in children is an important part of ORL emergency care in which early and accurate diagnosis is lifesaving. The most common diseases requiring such intervention are acute viral laryngotracheobronchitis, epiglottitis, and bacterial tracheitis.[20] Others will include diphtheria, laryngomalacia, and the presence of FB. Our patients with infective airway diseases were managed conservatively without major airway intervention probably because of early presentation enough for conservative management to suffice. The management of FB in the airway depends on the site of impaction with those in the pharynx being easier to remove than those in the lower respiratory tree.

Caustic substance ingestion remains a major health concern as seen in this study. In as much as it is stated above that children are continually exploring their environment, certain caustic agents are stored in inappropriate containers from which children can ingest. To reduce this occurrence, preventive parental health education is required and proper legislation to ensure corrosive agents are stored in childproof containers.[21] The importance of multidisciplinary management of these patients is highlighted in our study.

The otolaryngologist is called most times to the Accident and Emergency Department to manage these presentations as many accidents and emergency physicians are not adequately trained to handle such cases. This explains why the otolaryngologist attended the bulk of our patients. Training personnel in this regard will increase skill in the management of minor cases and reduce the burden on ORL emergency services.

   Conclusion Top

Pediatric ORL emergencies are common in our region and involve a wide spectrum of pathologies with acute tonsillitis forming the bulk of our cases. The majority of the patients can be managed conservatively, but a significant number requires surgical intervention. Expansion is required in the ORL training of the emergency room physician to enhance emergency services.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

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  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]

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