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Pertussis presenting as hoarseness in an adult

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February 18, 2012
by Stephen V. Tornabene, MD, Joshua Crose, BS, and Raul M. Cruz, MD


Pertussis is a rare condition in adults. This report describes a 65-year-old man presenting to the otolaryngology service with hoarseness secondary to pertussis. He had a history of worsening cough and hoarseness occurring over several weeks. Laryngoscopy showed significant erythema at the medial edges of the vocal folds. Stroboscopy demonstrated bilateral decreased amplitude and decreased mucosal wave of the vocal folds. Polymerase chain reaction testing of the sputum revealed Bordetella pertussis. The patient was started on azithromycin, and he reported gradual resolution of the chest and laryngeal symptoms over the next few months. Pertussis, or whooping cough, is not common in the United States because of childhood vaccination protocols. Nevertheless, otolaryngologists need to be aware of this condition as a possible cause of hoarseness.

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