Exercise-induced laryngeal obstruction (EILO) affects 2-3% of the general population and 5.1% of elite athletes. Symptoms arise during high-intensity exercise and resolve at rest. EILO is often misdiagnosed as exercise-induced asthma as both conditions can present with dyspnea, chest tightness and cough. The purpose of this quality initiative was to identify patient characteristics that predict a higher likelihood of EILO, streamline referrals for exercise-endoscopy testing and avoid unnecessary medications.
A retrospective chart review included patients referred to a pediatric tertiary center between 2013 and 2018 for suspected EILO requesting exercise endoscopy. Data was collected from the patient chart and referral letters included age, sex, physical activity, medications, symptoms, and results of pulmonary and cardiac function tests.
Between 2013 and 2018, 35 patients (9 males and 26 females, aged 5-18 years) were referred. Only 18 patients developed symptoms during an exercise endoscopy test. The majority were female (15/18), older than 10 years (18/18) and were involved in competitive sports (16/18). Stridor was the most common complaint among all patients referred (24/35) and many reported anxiety and high stress (15/35). The majority (63%) were previously treated with asthma medication. Pulmonary and cardiac function testing was not predictive of EILO.
EILO is typically present in adolescent females involved in competitive sports. Anxiety and high stress was commonly noted. The majority were treated with asthma medication even though pulmonary function testing was normal. Recognition of this patient profile should improve timely access to appropriate diagnostic assessments, avoid unnecessary medical treatment, and promote a return to optimal athletic performance.
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