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Alternative namesQuinsy; Abscess - peritonsillar
DefinitionPeritonsillar abscess is a collection of infected material in the area around the tonsils. See also retropharyngeal abscess .
Causes, incidence, and risk factorsPeritonsillar abscess is a complication of tonsillitis . Group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus is usually the cause of peritonsillar abscesses . One or both tonsils becomes infected and pus forms and may spread from the tonsil to the tissues around it. The infection may spread over the roof of the mouth (palate), and to the neck and chest, including the lungs. Swollen tissues may obstruct the airway, which would be a life-threatening medical emergency.
Peritonsillar abscess is generally a disease of older children, adolescents, and young adults. It has become relatively uncommon since the use of antibiotics to treat tonsillitis.
Signs and testsAn examination of the throat and neck may reveal redness and swelling of the tonsil(s), palate, throat, neck, and skin of the chest.
TreatmentTreatment is aimed at curing the infection and relieving symptoms. Antibiotics may be given if the infection is bacterial. Surgical drainage of the abscess by aspiration or incision will be performed. Analgesics may be used, if needed, for pain. Surgery to remove the tonsils ( tonsillectomy ) may be considered.
Expectations (prognosis)Peritonsillar abscess usually responds to treatment, although it may recur.
Calling your health care providerCall your health care provider if you have had tonsillitis and symptoms of peritonsillar abscess develop.
Call your health care provider if symptoms of complications develop, including worsening of symptoms, persistent fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or pain in the chest.
PreventionPrompt and complete treatment of tonsillitis, especially bacterial tonsillitis, may help prevent formation of abscess.
Update Date: 7/30/2003Jason Newman, M.D., Department of Otolaryngology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Group, Washington, DC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT