Parapharyngeal abscess is frequently associated with concomitant peritonsillar abscess

Tejs Ehlers Klug, Anne Sophie Lind Fischer, Christine Antonsen, Maria Rusan, Helle Eskildsen, Therese Ovesen
European Archives of Oto-rhino-laryngology 2014, 271 (6): 1701-7
To characterize patients with parapharyngeal abscess admitted to a Danish tertiary care centre and evaluate our management. This is a retrospective chart review. All records of patients with parapharyngeal abscess admitted to the Ear-Nose-Throat Department at Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark, from January 2001 through December 2011 were reviewed. In total, 63 patients (41 males), aged 4-89 years (median, 45 years) were included in the study. The mean annual incidence of parapharyngeal abscess was 0.9 cases/100,000 population. Thirty-three (52%) patients had concomitant peritonsillar abscess. In two patients the parapharyngeal abscess was accompanied by necrotizing fasciitis. The most frequent surgical approach used was intrapharyngeal incision in combination with tonsillectomy. The most commonly used antibiotic regimen was benzylpenicillin plus metronidazole. Seven (13%) patients returned to the operating theatre due to post-tonsillectomy haemorrhage or insufficient abscess drainage. Tonsillectomy and internal incision of the abscess in combination with a narrow-spectrum intravenous penicillin and metronidazole is a safe and efficient approach for managing parapharyngeal abscesses. This approach, however, carries a relatively high complication rate, requiring close surveillance in the early post-operative period. This is especially true for parapharyngeal abscess patients without peritonsillar abscess. In our series, these patients were more ill, more likely to experience complications, require intensive care, intubation, and tracheotomy, than parapharyngeal abscess patients with concurrent peritonsillar abscess. The frequent co-existence of parapharyngeal abscess and peritonsillar abscess favours careful consideration of addition of tonsillectomy to intrapharyngeal incision.

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