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Background: Management of aerodigestive emergencies can prove a challenge especially in this sub-Saharan region where there is a dearth of specialized equipment. In some areas, a plain radiograph may be the only investigative tool readily available to the surgeon. It is routinely done in most of these cases. In our environment health care is often financed by the patients through out of pocket expenses since most do not have health insurance. Affordability of a particular treatment becomes paramount. This study, therefore, is aimed at assessing the use of lateral soft tissue neck X-ray and its reliability as a diagnostic tool in aerodigestive emergencies.
Objective: To determine the relevance or effectiveness of plain radiograph of the lateral soft tissue neck in patients with upper aerodigestive emergencies and therefore its use as a tool to the otorhinolaryngology (ORL) surgeon as the first-line investigation in these patients.
Patients and Methods: It is a prospective study of all patients that presented to the ENT surgery department of UPTH from April 2018 to April 2019 with upper aerodigestive emergencies. Patients who presented in the ENT clinic, accident and emergency department, children`s emergency wards and the clinics with upper aerodigestive emergencies were recruited in this study. All the patients had X-ray lateral soft tissue of the neck done on presentation and the results were then compared with the final operative findings in the operation theatre. Some patients had also chest radiograph done however; the diagnosis was done based on the lateral soft tissue neck finding. Patients that had radiologic investigation other than radiograph of the lateral soft tissue neck as the main investigative tool were excluded from the study. The radiologist opinion was obtained for all the radiographs as a routine. The results were analyzed using the SPSS 20 and presented in simple statistical tables.
Results: Sixteen patients were studied. Males were 14(87.5%) while females were 2(12.5%). Age range was from 1.5 to 77 years with children comprising only 31.25% of the study population. The commonest presenting complaint was voice change 68.75%. Positive findings on the x-ray neck were seen as soft signs in 62.5% and radio-opacity in 18.75%. In n=14(87.5%) the lateral neck x-ray positive findings were corroborated by the operative findings. The tool has a specificity of 100% for both foreign body inhalation/ingestion and laryngeal tumour but the sensitivity of 80% in laryngeal tumours but 100% for the foreign body.
Conclusion: Study concludes that lateral soft tissue neck x-ray was found to be a good and useful tool in the diagnosis of a good number of upper aerodigestive emergencies such as foreign body ingestion/inhalation and patients with upper airway obstruction caused by laryngeal tumours and some infective conditions such as a retropharyngeal abscess.
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