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Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1999 Nov;125(11):1197-200.

Conscious sedation: a new approach for peritonsillar abscess drainage in the pediatric population.

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St Louis Children's Hospital, Washington University School of Medicine, Division of Pediatric Otolaryngology, MO, USA.



To assess the safety and efficacy of conscious sedation (CS) in children undergoing emergency department incision and drainage (I&D) of peritonsillar abscesses (PTAs).


A 33-month retrospective chart review of all children presenting to the emergency department with the diagnosis of a PTA or peritonsillar cellulitis. Children who underwent CS prior to I&D were compared with children without CS for complications and efficacy.


St Louis Children's Hospital, an academic tertiary care pediatric hospital.


Fifty-two children were enrolled; 30 PTAs were drained with CS in 27 children (3 underwent I&D twice), and 25 PTAs were drained in 25 children without CS.


The CS team included an otolaryngologist, a pediatric emergency department physician, and a registered nurse. A standardized CS protocol assessing vital signs and level of consciousness was employed during each procedure. A combination of midazolam, ketamine hydrochloride, and glycopyrrolate was used in appropriately weighted calculated doses. Patients were assessed for major and minor airway complications.


Airway complications related to CS were reviewed. Patients who underwent I&D with and without CS were compared with regard to purulent drainage.


There were no major airway complications in patients undergoing I&D with CS. There was 1 minor complication in this group, oxygen desaturation to 88%, which resolved with stimulation. Of the 55 procedures, 45 (82%) yielded purulence: 29 (97%) of 30 in the CS group and 16 (64%) of 25 in the non-CS group (chi2 = 9.8; P = .002). Of those children undergoing CS, 3 (10%) of 30 were admitted to the hospital from the emergency department as compared with 6 (24%) of 25 without CS (chi2 = 1.95; P = .16). In the CS group, PTAs had a low recurrence rate of 1 (3.3%) of 30 compared with 2 (8%) of 25 in the non-CS group (chi2 = 0.57; P = .45). No one in the CS group required a secondary procedure under general anesthesia.


This preliminary study demonstrates CS to be a potentially safe and efficacious approach to drainage of PTAs in children. Given its efficacy and its associated lower levels of anxiety and pain for the patient, CS seems to be a promising new approach to caring for children with PTAs.

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