Retropharyngeal abscess

Retropharyngeal abscess. Pathological entity very rare nowadays due to antibiotherapy. It can often go unnoticed in its initial stages, despite the typical symptoms it usually causes.

The diagnostic delay favors both the production of a potentially serious septic condition, as well as a greater difficulty for peri-operative management and is a life-threatening condition.


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  • 1 Causes
  • 2 Symptoms
  • 3 Clinical manifestations
  • 4 Tests and reviews
  • 5 Other exams
  • 6 Diagnosis
  • 7 Forecast
  • 8 Possible complications
  • 9 Prevention
  • 10 Sources


It generally affects children under the age of five, but can occur at any age. The infected material (pus) accumulates in the space around the tissues in the back of the throat. This can occur during or immediately after a throat infection.


  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Drooling
  • High fever
  • Squeaky sound when inhaling (stridor)
  • Intercostal muscles that retract when breathing (pull)
  • Severesore throat
  • Difficulty turning your head

Clinical manifestations

Palpation of the larynx will reveal local tenderness, regardless of the external or endolaryngeal location of the abscess . Fluctuation may be seen if the abscess is located outside the cartilage . When the neck is palpated , a thickening of the tissues located at the level of the larynx corresponding to the location of the abscess can be seen.

If the abscess is in the supraglottic region, a reddish, bulging mass is observed, affecting one of the ariepiglottic folds. When the abscess is secondary to perichondritis of the cricoid cartilage, it is noticeable in the infraglottic region and is usually associated with functional alteration of the vocal cords . Pus is seen in the larynx, which often comes from the ventricle .

External laryngeal abscess is generally associated with an inflammatory reaction of the endolaryngeal tissues as well as an obvious external inflammatory reaction. Palpation of the endolaryngeal tumor by direct laryngoscopy reveals fluctuation. Along with purulent discharge, fragments of necrotic cartilage can also be seen.

Tests and exams

The doctor will perform a physical exam and examine the inside of the throat. The nurse or nurse may gently rub the back of the throat with a cotton swab or applicator . This is to take a tissue sample for closer examination and is called a pharyngeal swab culture (throat culture).

Other exams

  • Complete blood count (CSC)
  • Neck CT scanof the neck
  • Neck x- ray


The diagnosis is usually established by the clinical manifestations. X-rays of the larynx are useful to reveal cartilage necrosis or the presence of air levels in the infected mass. == Treatment ==

The surgery is needed to drain the infected area. Sometimes corticosteroids are given to reduce inflammation of the airways . Similarly, high-dose intravenous antibiotics are prescribed to treat the infection . The airway will be protected so that the inflammation does not completely block it.


It is important to get medical help immediately. This condition can lead to an obstruction of the airway, which is life threatening. With timely treatment, a full recovery is expected.

Possible complications

  • Airway obstruction
  • Aspiration
  • Mediastinitis
  • Osteomyelitis


Prompt diagnosis and treatment of pharyngitis or upper respiratory tract infections can prevent the development of a retropharyngeal abscess.


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