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Retropharyngeal abscess: Wikis


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Retropharyngeal abscess
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 J39.0
ICD-9 478.24
DiseasesDB 11461
MedlinePlus 000984
eMedicine emerg/506 ped/2682
MeSH D017703

A retropharyngeal abscess is an abscess in the tissues in the back of the throat, the retropharyngeal space; behind the posterior pharyngeal wall.

It can lead to airway obstruction, a life-threatening emergency.[1] Fatalities normally occur from patients not receiving treatment immediately and suffocating prior to knowing that anything serious was wrong.



It is usually caused by a bacterial infection originating from the nasopharynx, tonsils, sinuses, adenoids or middle ear. It can also result from a direct infection due to penetrating injury or a foreign body.


Symptoms include difficulty swallowing, fever and enlarged cervical lymph nodes.


Retropharyngeal abscesses often need to be drained surgically. A vertical incision is made in the upper neck to drain the pus. Tracheotomy is often required to prevent upper airway obstruction caused by oedema in the neck. Antibiotics are also given.


X ray of the neck 80% of the time shows swelling of the retropharyngeal space. CT however is the test of choice as it shows abnormality 100% of the time.[2]


  1. ^ McLeod C, Stanley KA (January 2008). "Images in emergency medicine: retropharyngeal abscess". West J Emerg Med 9 (1): 55. PMID 19561707.  
  2. ^ Amal Mattu; Deepi Goyal; Barrett, Jeffrey W.; Joshua Broder; DeAngelis, Michael; Peter Deblieux; Gus M. Garmel; Richard Harrigan; David Karras; Anita L'Italien; David Manthey (2007). Emergency medicine: avoiding the pitfalls and improving the outcomes. Malden, Mass: Blackwell Pub./BMJ Books. pp. 50. ISBN 1-4051-4166-2.  

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