Peritonsillar abscess in children: A 10-year review of diagnosis and management

Scott Schraff, Johnathan D. McGinn, Craig S. Derkay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Objective: peritonsillar abscess is the most common deep neck infection in adults and children. However, pediatric patients with their smaller anatomy and often inability to cooperate with exam and treatment, provide a challenge. This study reviews the experience over the last 10 years at a children's hospital in the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric peritonsillar abscess. Methods: a retrospective chart review of 83 children diagnosed with a peritonsillar abscess by the Otolaryngology service over a 10-year period (March 1989-February 1999) were reviewed. Presenting signs and symptoms, physical findings, age, season of presentation, prior pharyngitis history, and prior treatment was collected from the charts. Additionally, diagnostic studies (if any), treatment performed, bacteriology, and outcome/complications were noted. Results: due to either an inability to cooperate fully for examination and treatment, or because of an earlier history of significant recurrent pharyngitis or obstructive tonsillar hypertrophy, half of the children required treatment in the operating room. Twenty-six out of 83 (31%) underwent a quinsy tonsillectomy. Length of stay was relatively short (0.9 days). There were no recurrent PTAs in our series, although four children initially treated with incision and drainage required tonsillectomy for persistent symptoms or residual abscess. Ten of those not treated with tonsillectomy (19%) required interval tonsillectomy for recurrent pharyngitis. Conclusion: limited by the ability to cooperate with treatment, children often require different treatment plans. We offer a treatment algorithm for managing children with PTAs that takes into account their age, level of cooperativeness, co-morbidities and prior history of pharyngitis, PTA or obstructive sleep disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-218
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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