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Clin Otolaryngol. 2012 Apr;37(2):136-45. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-4486.2012.02452.x.

An evidence-based review of peritonsillar abscess.

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Department of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, Freeman Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.



We present the current literature surrounding peritonsillar abscess management highlighting areas of controversy. TYPE OF REVIEW AND SEARCH STRATEGY: Literature review using Medline and Embase databases (search terms 'peritonsillar abscess', 'peritonsillar infection' and 'quinsy') limited to articles published from 1991 to 2011 (English language).




Intraoral ultrasound has a sensitivity and specificity of between 89-95% and 79-100%, respectively, for correctly diagnosing peritonsillar abscess and is underutilised currently. (ii) Medical management: Steroids can effectively aid recovery, reducing hospitalisation time and improving symptom relief; however, further study is needed, especially related to risk and cost benefit. Penicillin and metronidazole are an effective combination in 98-99% of cases of peritonsillar abscess. (iii) Surgical management: Overall, there is no convincing evidence in favour of either aspiration or incision & drainage. Quinsy tonsillectomy is subject to great geographical variation, however, is a safe procedure and reduces overall recovery time when compared with interval tonsillectomy. (iv) Admission: peritonsillar abscess can be effectively managed as an outpatient in many cases. (v) Further management: Overall, the recurrence rate of peritonsillar abscess is poorly defined but estimated as 9-22% based on current evidence. Interval tonsillectomy may be indicated in selected groups of patients at high risk of recurrence.


Peritonsillar abscess is a common condition with increasing incidence. We demonstrate the potential for evidence-based modifications in clinical management. However, lack of national consensus may mean that this evidence base is not being adequately exploited in current practice. A national audit of peritonsillar abscess management, in particular looking at recurrence rates and patient experience with different management strategies, appears indicated.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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