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J Emerg Med. 2011 Nov;41(5):e107-10. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2008.04.047. Epub 2008 Nov 20.

Acute abscess of the base of the tongue: a rare but important emergency.

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  • 1Department of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (CHU) de Clermont-Ferrand, Gabriel Montpied Teaching Hospital Network, Faculty of Medicine, University of Clermont, Clermont-Ferrand, France.



Acute posterior lingual abscess is rare, but may potentially compromise the airway acutely.


Lingual abscesses call for prompt and aggressive management because they are potentially life-threatening infections. Anterior lingual abscess (the most common) and posterior third lingual abscess must be differentiated.


A young man who experienced the beginnings of dyspnea and total aphagia presented to the Emergency Department. A posterior lingual abscess was identified on computed tomography scan.


Multi-antimicrobial therapy is the cornerstone of treatment. Surgical drainage is also of critical importance for preventing deeper spread of the infection.


We present this case to increase awareness among emergency physicians and head and neck surgeons of the clinical findings of acute abscess of the base of the tongue, which can be difficult to diagnose clinically. Imaging of the oral cavity and pharynx is the key to the diagnosis, and the key to choosing the best surgical strategy.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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