BMJ Case Reports 2013; doi:10.1136/bcr-2012-007928

An unusual presentation of herpes infection in the head and neck

  1. Brian M Fish2
  1. 1Department of ENT, Medway Maritime Hospital, London, UK
  2. 2Department of ENT, Addenbrookes, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to Ali Sanei-Moghaddam, ali.sanei-moghaddam{at}


Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is among a spectrum of viruses known to affect the upper aerodigestive tract. Gingivostomatitis and pharyngitis are the most common clinical manifestations of first-episode HSV infection, whereas recurrent herpes labialis is the most common clinical manifestation of reactivation HSV infection. Herpetic viral infections seldom attack the larynx. Laryngeal disorders provoked by the herpes virus are characterised by a large spectrum of presentations and polymorphisms, and can simulate mucous lesions such as an extensive laryngeal neoplasm (supraglottic tumour). We report a case of a 69-year-old woman, smoker, who presented with a large ulcerated supraglottic mass mimicking laryngeal cancer, requiring emergency tracheostomy for worsening stridor, which turned out to be an HSV laryngitis superimposed onto an underlying Streptococcus A lower respiratory tract infection. The patient was treated for Streptococcus A infection and her symptoms resolved following treatment. Patient's tracheotomy tube was removed on follow-up appointment.

Register for free content

The full text of all Editor's Choice articles and summaries of every article are free without registration

The full text of Images in ... articles are free to registered users

Only fellows can access the full text of case reports (apart from Editor's Choice) - become a fellow today, or encourage your institution to, so that together we can grow and develop this resource

Don't forget to sign up for content alerts so you keep up to date with all the case reports as they are published, and let us know what you think by commenting on the Editor's blog

Navigate This Article