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J Cardiovasc Pharmacol Ther. 2012 Sep;17(3):298-302. doi: 10.1177/1074248411423023. Epub 2011 Oct 24.

Bacteremia during quinsy and elective tonsillectomy: an evaluation of antibiotic prophylaxis recommendations for patients undergoing tonsillectomy.

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  • 1Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus C, Denmark.



Bacteremia during elective tonsillectomy is well recognized, whereas bacteremia during quinsy tonsillectomy has never been studied. The aim of the present study was to explore the incidence of bacteremia during elective and quinsy tonsillectomy in order to evaluate the antibiotic prophylaxis recommendations to patients at high risk of infective endocarditis who are undergoing tonsillectomy.


A prospective study was conducted on 80 patients undergoing elective tonsillectomy and 36 patients undergoing acute tonsillectomy due to peritonsillar abscess. Blood cultures, tonsillar swabs, core tissue, and pus aspirates were analyzed by standard microbiological techniques.


Bacteremia was detected in 73% of patients during elective tonsillectomy compared to 56% during quinsy tonsillectomy (P = .089, Fishers exact test). Significantly more blood culture bottles were positive for each isolate obtained from elective tonsillectomy cases compared to quinsy tonsillectomy cases (P < .001, Spearman rank correlation). In all, 59% and 42% of electively and acutely tonsillectomized patients, respectively, had bacteremia with microorganisms that are predominant in bacterial endocarditis. Ninety-three percent of the isolated strains were sensitive to amoxicillin, and all were sensitive to amoxicillin with clavulanic acid.


Our results challenge the distinction made by the European Society of Cardiology between elective and quinsy tonsillectomy, with regard to antibiotic prophylaxis recommendation only to patients undergoing procedures to treat an established infection. To provide full empiric coverage, including coverage for Staphylococcus aureus, we advocate the use of amoxicillin with clavulanic acid in patients at high risk of infective endocarditis.

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