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Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2012 Apr;269(4):1241-9. doi: 10.1007/s00405-011-1761-1. Epub 2011 Sep 14.

Deep neck infections: a study of 365 cases highlighting recommendations for management and treatment.

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Department of Medical and Surgical Specialities, University of Padua, School of Medicine, Padua, Italy.


The aims of this investigation were to review the clinical behavior of deep neck infections (DNIs) treated in our institution in order to identify the predisposing factors of life-threatening complications and propose valuable recommendations for management and treatment. A total of 365 adult patients with DNIs were retrospectively identified. One-hundred and thirty-nine patients (38.1%) underwent surgical drainage. Overall, 226 patients (61.9%) responded effectively to intravenous antimicrobial therapy only. There were 67 patients (18.4%) developing life-threatening complications. Diabetes mellitus (odd ratio 5.43; P < 0.001) and multiple deep neck spaces involvement (odd ratio 4.92; P < 0.001) were the strongest independent predictors of complications. The mortality rate was 0.3%. Airway obstruction and descending mediastinitis are the most troublesome complications of DNIs. In selected patients, a trial of intravenous antibiotic therapy associated with an intensive computed tomography-based wait-and-watch policy may avoid an unnecessary surgical procedure. However, about one-fourth of patients present significant comorbidities, which may negatively affect the course of the infection. In these cases and in patients with large or multiple spaces infections, a more aggressive surgical strategy is mandatory.

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