Home Medical Cases Sweet Potato Burns the Larynx!

Sweet Potato Burns the Larynx!

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sweet potato
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A male in his 30s presented with severe pain in his throat, voice change, and blood-tinged sputum after a hot sweet potato lodged in his throat. Thermal injury of the vocal cords!

A male in his early 30’s presented to the emergency department with a history of lodged sweet potato in his throat 8 hours prior to the presentation. The patient warmed his sweet potato in the microwave, checked the temperature by touching it before eating. Although according to the patient, it did not feel extremely hot on the touch, the sweet potato was in fact hot for the mouth!

When he bit the potato, it was hot. He tried to quickly swallow it. Unfortunately, instead of travelling down the food pipe, the sweet potato lodged in his throat causing extreme discomfort.

The patient had an 11 years old history of left-sided spastic hemiparesis after an unfortunate motor vehicle accident. Hemiparesis is a neurological damage that renders half of the body unable to move due to muscle spasm. Therefore, after the accident, he was unable to move his limbs. Besides the paralysis of the limbs, he also suffered partial-paralysis of vocal cords on one side, i.e., unilateral vocal fold paresis. Therefore, he had restricted movement of a vocal cord.

The patient had no previous history of similar events. He never had difficulty swallowing food. However, this time the ingested hot sweet potato resulted in supraglottic burns.

Although the sweet potato lodged in his throat, the patient was able to expectorate it within a few seconds. However, he noticed blood-stained sputum when the potato dislodged. Moreover, with time, his pain increased in severity and his voice quality also changed. Gradually, he started to have difficulty in breathing, therefore, he rushed to the ED to seek immediate professional help.

In the ED, the doctors started him on IV Dexamethasone (steroid) and “Kool’s solution” (mix of diphenhydramine, Lidocaine, and Maalox).

A lateral neck X-ray showed thickened epiglottis and aryepiglottic folds. An ENT specialist recommended flexible laryngoscopy which revealed moderate areas of loss/re­moval of normal tissue by thermal injury (burn by a hot sweet potato). Moreover, it also revealed swollen epiglot­tis, AE folds, and bilateral arytenoid cartilages.

For airway observation, the doctors admitted the patient and administered additional 3 doses of steroids, antibiotics, and a proton-pump inhibitor.

He recovered uneventfully so the doctors discharged him after 18 hours of observation. They prescribed him an antibiotic, i.e. Augmentin, Nystatin, PPI, and a cold liquid diet.

At 1-week follow-up, he told that his voice was getting back to normal and the pain was bare minimum. Videostroboscopy showed healing burns. However, areas of denudation and granulation along the aryepiglottic folds were still present. Additionally, the vibration of the true vocal folds was also impaired.

AT one week follow-up: white appearing lesions noted

At 2-week follow-up, his pain had completely resolved, his voice was normal, and videostroboscopy showed an almost complete resolution.

There were no long-term complications in the subsequent visits.

Source: Pinther S, Codino J, Rubin A. Laryngeal Burn from a Sweet Potato: A Case Report. SMRJ.
2020;4(2). doi:10.51894/001c.11641

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Dr. Arsia Hanif has been a meritorious Healthcare professional with a proven track record throughout her academic life securing first position in her MCAT examination and then, in 2017, she successfully completed her Bachelors of Medicine and Surgery from Dow University of Health Sciences. She has had the opportunity to apply her theoretical knowledge to the real-life scenarios, as a House Officer (HO) serving at Civil Hospital. Whilst working at the Civil Hospital, she discovered that nothing satisfies her more than helping other humans in need and since then has made a commitment to implement her expertise in the field of medicine to cure the sick and regain the state of health and well-being. Being a Doctor is exactly what you’d think it’s like. She is the colleague at work that everyone wants to know but nobody wants to be. If you want to get something done, you approach her – everyone knows that! She is currently studying with Medical Council of Canada and aspires to be a leading Neurologist someday. Alongside, she has taken up medical writing to exercise her skills of delivering comprehensible version of the otherwise difficult medical literature. Her breaks comprise either of swimming, volunteering services at a Medical Camp or spending time with family.

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