NYMC Faculty Publications

A 27-Year-Old Woman with an Exacerbation of Chronic Asthma Due to Influenza A Presenting with Pneumomediastinum, Retropharyngeal Emphysema, and Subcutaneous Emphysema

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Resident/Fellow, Faculty

Journal Title

The American Journal of Case Reports

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BACKGROUND Influenza infection can trigger an asthma exacerbation, which can lead to spontaneous pneumomediastinum. This is a rare condition that typically occurs after a sudden increase in intra-alveolar pressure. Pneumomediastinum is usually a benign condition that can be treated with supportive care, and it can be accompanied by subcutaneous emphysema. However, it can progress to retropharyngeal emphysema, as reported in this case. This report is of a 27-year-old patient with past medical history of well-controlled asthma presenting for acute exacerbation of asthma secondary to influenza A infection who developed pneumomediastinum, subcutaneous emphysema, and retropharyngeal emphysema. To the best of our knowledge, there is only one case in literature that has reported a similar presentation secondary to influenza A infection. CASE REPORT We report a 27-year-old woman with well-controlled asthma who presented with chest pain, shortness of breath, throat pressure, dry cough, and expiratory wheezing as an acute exacerbation of asthma secondary to influenza A infection. On chest imaging, she was found to have spontaneous pneumomediastinum, subcutaneous emphysema, and retropharyngeal emphysema. Her symptoms were resolved with supportive measures and control of asthma symptoms. CONCLUSIONS This case highlights these atypical complications of asthma exacerbations. Although these complications are typically benign and can resolve with supportive measures, severe cases can lead to acute airway compromise, pneumothorax, tension pneumomediastinum, or tension pneumopericardium. This case also shows how important it is to consider chest radiographs in any young patient with an asthma exacerbation who has symptoms or signs suggestive of extra-alveolar air.