Retropharyngeal hematoma in a patient with chronic alcoholism

Kosuke Shoji, Noriko Miyagawa, Atsushi Tanikawa, Michio Kobayashi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Retropharyngeal hematoma is a potentially life-threatening condition because it can easily lead to airway obstruction. Most of the previously reported cases of retropharyngeal hematoma are caused by predisposing factors such as head and neck trauma, the use of anticoagulants, or the presence of underlying bleeding diathesis. Herein, we report a case of retropharyngeal hematoma in a patient with chronic alcoholism, where we could not confirm any predisposing factors at the time of examination. A 61-year-old man with chronic alcoholism presented to our emergency department with convulsive seizures. He was diagnosed with alcohol withdrawal and transferred to a secondary hospital after the seizure resolved. However, a few hours later, he returned to our department with a persistent cough and complained of pain and swelling in the neck. One hour later, he suddenly developed dyspnea; therefore, emergency intubation was performed. Although initially computed tomography (CT) showed normal findings, contrast-enhanced CT revealed a retropharyngeal hematoma. He was managed conservatively and transferred to a specialty hospital for intensive care. Chronic alcoholism may be a predisposing factor for retropharyngeal hematoma due to the high incidence of head trauma, neck hyperextension by convulsion, and hemostatic disorders. However, taking an accurate patient history is sometimes difficult because of the effects of intoxication or alcohol withdrawal. If a patient with chronic alcoholism presents with symptoms of airway compression, then a retropharyngeal hematoma should be suspected, and emergency intubation should be considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)799.e3-799.e4
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Aug


  • Airway obstruction
  • Alcoholism
  • Retropharyngeal hematoma


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