Bacterial tracheitis

Exudative tracheitis, also known as bacterial tracheitis, membranous croup or membranous laryngotracheobronchitis, is a rare, but potentially life-threatening cause of upper airway obstruction.

Typical age ranges from 6 to 10 years of age.

Clinically it presents with similar symptoms to croup including protracted barking cough and inspiratory stridor, however, will typically present more ill and in an older demographic than for croup (6 months to 3 years of age).

  • Linear soft tissue filling defect (membrane) within the upper airway. Linear non-adherent mucus may mimic a membrane on plain film. In cooperative patients repeating the film after coughing can help to differentiate the two. 
  • Plaque-like irregularity of the tracheal wall is highly suspicious for exudative tracheitis.
  • Subglottic narrowing (steeple sign) in a patient too old to have croup.
  • Irregularity and ill-definition of the tracheal wall.

If exudative membrane is sloughed into the tracheal lumen, it can lead to airway occlusion and respiratory arrest. 

Children suspected to have exudative tracheitis are often evaluated endoscopically and have the membrane stripped with elective intubation performed. 

Article information

rID: 58156
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Membranous croup
  • Bacterial tracheitis
  • Membranous laryngotracheobronchitis

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