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A comparison between amylase levels from peritonsillar, dental and neck abscesses.

OBJECTIVES: Pus of peritonsillar abscess (PTA) contains very high amylase levels in some patients. The objective of this study was to further test this finding and to check whether high amylase levels in peritonsillar abscess originate from contamination by saliva during aspiration.

STUDY DESIGN: Prospective study.

SETTING: Tertiary care university hospital.

PARTICIPANTS: The study includes 64 patients with PTA, 8 patients with a neck abscess and 12 patients with a dental abscess.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Amylase levels of pus and serum were compared between the groups. Clinical data regarding hospitalisation length, recurrence rate and previous antibiotic treatment were also collected.

RESULTS: Mean amylase levels in the pus of the PTA group were 3045 U/L (median 59 U/L), 13 U/L in the neck abscess group (P = 0.001) and 22 U/L in the dental abscess group (P = 0.001). Mean serum amylase was higher in the PTA group; PTA - 50 U/L, neck abscess - 37 U/L (P = 0.002) and dental abscess - 26 U/L (P < 0.002). All of the patients with amylase levels above 65 U/L had a first episode of PTA. In contrast, 40% of patients with amylase lower than 65 U/L had recurrent PTA (P = 0.003).

CONCLUSION: A clear association is seen between minor salivary glands and peritonsillar abscess. The high amylase level in peritonsillar pus is not from contamination with saliva.

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