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Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2012 Oct;94(7):490-2. doi: 10.1308/003588412X13373405385539.

The clinical relevance of microbiology specimens in orofacial abscesses of dental origin.

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  • 1Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, UK.



It is common surgical practice to take a specimen for microbial culture and susceptibility (MC&S) when draining an orofacial abscess. The aim of this study was to determine if routine MC&S has any therapeutic value in the care of these patients.


A retrospective study was undertaken of records of patients admitted for surgical management of orofacial abscesses between January 2010 and December 2011. Records were reviewed for bacteriology specimen and result, admission details, antimicrobial treatment and outcome.


A total of 79 patients were included in the study and specimens sent from 62 patients (78.4%). Samples were positive in 86.2% of cases, of which Streptococcus viridans was the most commonly isolated organism (54.7%). Interim reports were published on average after 3.25 days, with 89.9% of patients having been discharged within 2 post-operative days. According to clinical records, no patients in the cohort required further intervention or alteration of prescribed antimicrobial treatments following discharge.


Almost 90% of patients were discharged before bacteriology results were available, without complication. This study suggests bacteriology culture has no therapeutic value in these patients. Omission of this practice in the case of uncomplicated orofacial abscesses could improve efficiency in the National Health Service without affecting patient care.

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