COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

[Retro- and parapharyngeal infections: standardization of their management]

S Fédérici, C Silva, C Maréchal, E Laporte, A Sévely, E Grouteau, I Claudet
Archives de Pédiatrie: Organe Officiel de la Sociéte Française de Pédiatrie 2009, 16 (9): 1225-32
19586761

AIM: To analyze the changes in the management of retropharyngeal and parapharyngeal infections and propose a decisional algorithm for their diagnosis and treatment.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: A retrospective survey was carried out in a tertiary care pediatric hospital between January 2001 and December 2005. All children aged less than 15 years and affected by a retro- or parapharyngeal infection were included. Clinical, biological, and radiological data, medical and surgical treatment, and complications were extracted from the review of medical charts. The results of the surgical findings were correlated with a cervical computed tomographic scan (CT scan).

RESULTS: Thirty-one patients were included, 64.5% during the last 2 years of the study period. All children presented fever and a stiff neck. The pharyngeal examination revealed a retropharyngeal bulge in a quarter of the population and an upper respiratory tract infection was concomitant in 68% of cases. A CT scan was carried out in 29 of 31 children (93.5%), with the radiological diagnosis of an abscess in 16 children (55.2%), presuppurative adenitis in 8 children (27.6%), and cellulitis in 5 children (17.2%). The CT scan was performed within 0.75 days of admission in 2001 and 2.3 days in 2005. All children were treated with intravenous antibiotic therapy: an association of amoxicillin/clavulanic acid and an aminoglycoside in most cases. The mean duration of intravenous antibiotic therapy was 5.2 days. Seventeen patients (93.5%) underwent surgical drainage and purulent material was found in 82.3% of cases. The accuracy of the CT scan, confirmed by surgical finding of a purulent material, was 71.4% in correctly identifying an abscess. The mean duration of surgical treatment after admission increased from 1.7 days in 2001 to 3.3 days in 2005. The number of patients who underwent surgery was divided by a factor of 3 in the second period of the study. Two groups were compared: group A (n=12) treated with antibiotic therapy and group B (n=17) treated with antibiotics and surgical drainage. No significant difference was found between the two groups considering the duration of parenteral and oral antibiotic therapy, the standardization of cervical mobility, the mean time for apyrexia, and the length of hospitalization. There was one recurrence in group B 1 month later, and one case of sepsis in group A. None of the patients with retropharyngeal infection died.

CONCLUSION: Without clinical evidence of severe sepsis, parenteral antibiotic therapy is recommended as the first-line treatment for children over 6 months of age presenting with retropharyngeal and parapharyngeal infections. If the clinical and/or biological conditions do not improve within 48-72h, a CT scan is indicated to assess the extent of infection and exclude complications. The decision to initiate surgical drainage depends on the patient's clinical status and the accessibility of the abscess.

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