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Deep neck infections in different age groups of children.

BACKGROUND/PURPOSE: Deep neck infections (DNIs) can cause significant morbidity in children. This study analyzes the clinical presentations, diagnostic clues, and age relationship of DNI in pediatric patients.

METHODS: Pediatric patients admitted to our hospital from January 1996 to December 2007 with a diagnosis of DNIs were reviewed retrospectively. Diseases were categorized according to the site of infection: peritonsillar, parapharyngeal, and retropharyngeal spaces. Patients were divided into two groups: children (aged < 10 years) and adolescents (aged 10-18 years).

RESULTS: Fifty pediatric patients were enrolled, including nine with DNI in the retropharyngeal space, 17 in the parapharyngeal, 21 in the peritonsillar and three with mixed type abscesses. A total of 21 patients belonged to the child group, and 29 were adolescents. All retropharyngeal abscesses occurred in children; whereas most peritonsillar abscesses (81%) were found in adolescents. Most retropharyngeal and parapharyngeal abscesses were associated with fever (100% and 65%, respectively) and neck masses (67% and 94%, respectively); while odynophagia was the most common symptom in peritonsillar abscess (100%). Thirty-two abscess cultures were obtained and seven grew mixed pathogens, followed by Streptococcus pyogenes (n = 5), and normal flora (n = 5). Complications of airway obstruction arose in one patient with parapharyngeal abscess, and mediastinitis in another two patients with retropharyngeal abscesses. Recurrent DNIs were observed in six patients; three had congenital bronchogenic cysts.

CONCLUSION: The location of the DNI appears to vary in different pediatric age groups. Its insidious presentation, with a potentially complicated course, warrants careful inspection in children with fever and neck masses, especially young children.

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