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Laryngoscope. 2000 Oct;110(10 Pt 1):1698-701.

Otolaryngology consultation for peritonsillar abscess in the pediatric population.

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Department of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery, The Ohio State University, Columbus, USA.



To assess clinical outcomes of children seen in consultation for peritonsillar abscess treated without the routine use of computed tomography or needle aspiration.


Retrospective review of patients evaluated in the emergency department for possible peritonsillar abscess. Patient outcomes are reviewed with a statistical analysis of children grouped according to age.


A series of 102 patients, ages 8 months to 19 years, who were evaluated by the emergency department with otolaryngology consultation for possible peritonsillar abscess. All patients were admitted and given intravenous fluid replacement, antibiotics, and analgesia. Patients who responded to 24 hours of medical treatment were discharged, whereas patients who did not respond underwent elective tonsillectomy.


Outcome of patients evaluated for peritonsillar abscess treated without immediate surgery, needle aspiration, or computed tomography. Outcomes are correlated with age and clinical findings.


Fifty-two patients were discharged after initial medical therapy. Fifty patients underwent elective tonsillectomy; 40 of these patients were found to have abscesses at the time of surgery. When analyzed according to age, patients ages 8 months to 6 years were more likely to respond to medical treatment than children ages 7 to 12 and 12 to 19 (P = .023). Significant differences in the mean age of children requiring surgery (11.0 y) compared with those who responded to medical treatment (7.9 y) were observed (P = .003). Younger children who underwent tonsillectomy had a lower incidence of surgically confirmed abscess.


A significant number of children presenting with odynophagia, malaise, pharyngotonsillar bulge, and decreased oral intake respond to medical therapy without radiological evaluation or surgical intervention. Additionally, younger children (1-6 y) are more likely to respond to medical treatment than older children. Pertinent clinical data, as well as advantages and disadvantages of this approach, are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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