JOURNAL ARTICLE
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[Peritonsillar and retropharyngeal abscesses: study of 13 years].

INTRODUCTION: Peritonsillar and retropharyngeal abscesses are the most common deep head and neck infections. We present a series of patients with these infections.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: We performed a retrospective study of peritonsillar and retropharyngeal abscesses in children admitted to the Infectious Diseases Unit of our hospital between January 1991 and January 2004. Diagnosis was based mainly on clinical and laboratory findings.

RESULTS: We studied 54 patients, 10 with retropharyngeal abscess and 44 with peritonsillar abscess. The mean age was 6.7 and 7.5 years respectively. There was a slight predominance of boys (1.45:1). The number of cases diagnosed increased from 1997, with a maximum (nine cases) in 2002. Twenty-nine children had received previous antibiotic therapy. The main symptoms and signs were: fever, odynophagia, cervical lymphadenitis, and asymmetric tonsillar hypertrophy. All children received intravenous antibiotic therapy. Puncture-aspiration was carried out in seven patients. Eleven children underwent tonsillectomy, two with retropharyngeal abscess and nine with peritonsillar abscess. Of these 11 patients, five had had several episodes of tonsillitis and three had previously had a peritonsillar abscess. Three children who developed an abscess had previously undergone tonsillectomy. In most patients, outcome was favorable.

CONCLUSIONS: In the last few years the frequency of peritonsillar and retropharyngeal abscesses has increased in the pediatric population. Most of the children have a good response to conservative treatment. The main risk factor for abscess recurrence is a previous history of repeated tonsillitis. Consequently, these patients are candidates for tonsillectomy.

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