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Diagnosis and treatment of deep neck space abscesses.

OBJECTIVE: To review our experience with deep neck abscesses and identify unique trends in our patient population.

STUDY DESIGN: Case series with chart review.

SUBJECTS AND METHODS: Evaluation of patients with deep neck space abscesses between 2001 and 2006. Peritonsillar abscess, superficial craniocervical infection, and salivary gland infections were excluded from selection of study population. A total of 106 cases were reviewed.

RESULTS: Dental infections were the most common cause of deep neck abscesses (49.1%). Comorbidities included substance abuse (53.7%), psychiatric illness (10.4%), hypertension (9.4%), head and neck cancer (6.6%), and diabetes mellitus (5.7%). All patients received systemic antibiotics, eight patients required tracheotomy, 85 patients underwent surgical drainage in the operating room, and 11 had bedside drainage. Median and lower quartile of time in hospital was 2 and 3 days, respectively, whereas upper quartile was 4 days (range, 1 to 27 days). Patients with comorbidities or concurrent illness tended to stay longer (P<0.05, Mann-Whitney test). There were six complications and no mortality.

CONCLUSION: Substance abuse and poor orodental hygiene are important predisposing factors to deep neck abscesses. Appropriate management continues to favor a combination of early surgical drainage and systemic antibiotics.

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