Retropharyngeal and parapharyngeal abscess in children-Epidemiology, clinical features and treatment

Galia Grisaru-Soen*, Orna Komisar, Orna Aizenstein, Michalle Soudack, David Schwartz, Gideon Paret

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To describe the clinical presentation, diagnosis, management and complications of children with retropharyngeal abscesses (RPAs) and parapharyngeal abscesses (PPAs). Methods: A retrospective chart review was conducted at two tertiary care, pediatric hospitals in Israel. The medical records of all children <18 years who had been admitted with a diagnosis of RPA or PPA during an 11-year period (January 1997 to February 2008) were reviewed. Data on demographics, presenting symptoms, physical examination findings, imaging studies and interpretation, laboratory results, hospital course, medical treatment and surgical interventions were retrieved. Results: A total of 39 children were diagnosed as having RPA (n= 26, 67%) or PPA (n= 13, 33%). There was a predominance of boys (61.5%). The mean age of all the children at diagnosis was 4 years. The annual incidence increased over the 11-year period. The most common symptoms at presentation included fever (n= 27, 70%) and neck pain (n= 24, 62%). The physical examination revealed cervical lymphadenopathy in 30 children (77%), limitation of neck movements in 25 (64%), torticollis in 21 (54%), drooling in three (8%), and stridor in two (5%). Computerized tomographic (CT) scanning with contrast was performed in 37 patients (95%), of whom 17 underwent surgical drainage. Thirteen children were positively diagnosed as having an abscess by the finding of pus at surgery, of whom 12 had been found to have an abscess on their CT scan. All the patients received intravenous antibiotics. There was no significant difference in the duration of hospital stay between those who underwent surgery and those who were treated with antibiotics alone. There were no treatment failures and no complications in either of the two groups. Conclusion: Children with RPA most commonly present with restricted neck movements, fever and cervical lymphadenopathy, and rarely with respiratory distress or stridor. Many patients with RPA and PPA can be treated successfully without surgery. CT scans are helpful in diagnosing and assessing the extent of the infection, but they are not always accurate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1016-1020
Number of pages5
JournalInternational Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Children
  • Retropharyngeal abscess
  • Treatment


Dive into the research topics of 'Retropharyngeal and parapharyngeal abscess in children-Epidemiology, clinical features and treatment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this