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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Clinical Mimics: An Emergency Medicine-Focused Review of Streptococcal Pharyngitis Mimics

Michael Gottlieb, Brit Long, Alex Koyfman
Journal of Emergency Medicine 2018, 54 (5): 619-629
29523424

BACKGROUND: Pharyngitis is a common disease in the emergency department (ED). Despite a relatively low incidence of complications, there are many dangerous conditions that can mimic this disease and are essential for the emergency physician to consider.

OBJECTIVE: This article provides a review of the evaluation and management of group A β-hemolytic Streptococcal (GABHS) pharyngitis, as well as important medical conditions that can mimic this disease.

DISCUSSION: GABHS pharyngitis often presents with fever, sore throat, tonsillar exudates, and anterior cervical lymphadenopathy. History and physical examination are insufficient for the diagnosis. The Centor criteria or McIsaac score can help risk stratify patients for subsequent testing or treatment. Antibiotics may reduce symptom duration and suppurative complications, but the effect is small. Rheumatic fever is uncommon in developed countries, and shared decision making is recommended if antibiotics are used for this indication. Oral analgesics and topical anesthetics are important for symptom management. Physicians should consider alternate diagnoses that may mimic GABHS pharyngitis, which can include epiglottitis, infectious mononucleosis, Kawasaki disease, acute retroviral syndrome, Lemierre's syndrome, Ludwig's angina, peritonsillar abscess, retropharyngeal abscess, and viral pharyngitis. A focused history and physical examination can help differentiate these conditions.

CONCLUSIONS: GABHS may present similarly to other benign and potentially deadly diseases. Diagnosis and treatment of pharyngitis should be based on clinical evaluation. Consideration of pharyngitis mimics is important in the evaluation and management of ED patients.

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