Making the diagnosis of malignant airway obstruction may be simple or challenging depending on how the patient presents.
The patient may present:
(1) with symptoms misdiagnosed as another condition (see below)
(2) with airway complaints
Malignant airway obstruction may be misdiagnosed as:
(1) an exacerbation of COPD, including chronic bronchitis
(2) worsening heart failure (especially if there is nocturnal dyspnea or worsening of symptoms when supine)
Airway complaints may include:
Symptoms may be relatively mild until a level of critical obstruction occurs, after which there may be a rapid deterioration.
Often a history of a malignant tumor that can cause airway obstruction is key in making the diagnosis.
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Specialty: Pulmonology, Otolaryngology