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Alternative Names Return to topSubmandibular space infection; Sublingual space infection
Definition Return to top
Ludwig's angina is a bacterial infection of the floor of the mouth.
Causes Return to top
Ludwig's angina is a type of cellulitis that involves inflammation of the tissues of the floor of the mouth, under the tongue. It often occurs after an infection of the roots of the teeth (such as tooth abscess) or a mouth injury.
This condition is uncommon in children.
Symptoms Return to top
Swelling of the tissues occurs rapidly and may block the airway or prevent swallowing of saliva.
Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease:
Exams and Tests Return to top
An examination of the neck and head shows redness and swelling of the upper neck, under the chin. The swelling may reach to the floor of the mouth. The tongue may be swollen or out of place.
A CT scan of the neck may be recommended. Culture of fluid from the tissues may show bacteria.
Treatment Return to top
If the swelling blocks the airway, emergency medical help is needed to maintain an open airway. This may involve placing a breathing tube through the mouth or nose and into the lungs, or surgery called a tracheostomy that creates an opening through the neck into the windpipe.
Antibiotics, usually penicillin or a penicillin-like medication, are given to fight the infection. They are usually given through a vein until symptoms go away. Antibiotics taken by mouth may be continued until tests show that the bacteria have gone away.
Dental treatment may be needed for tooth infections that cause Ludwig's angina.
Surgery may be needed to drain fluids that are causing the swelling.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Ludwig's angina can be life threatening. However, it can be cured with proper protection of the airways and appropriate antibiotics.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Breathing difficulty is an emergency situation. Immediately go to the emergency room or call your local emergency number (such as 911).
Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of this condition, or if symptoms do not improve after treatment.
Prevention Return to top
Regular visits to the dentist, and prompt treatment of mouth or tooth infections can prevent the conditions that increase the risk of developing Ludwig's angina.Update Date: 3/2/2009 Updated by: Daniel Levy, MD, PhD, Infectious Diseases, Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.