Peritonsillar abscess

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Peritonsillar abscess
Classification and external resources
Right sided peritonsillar abscess
ICD-10 J36
ICD-9 475
DiseasesDB 11141
MedlinePlus 000986
eMedicine emerg/417
MeSH D000039

Peritonsillar abscess (PTA), also known as a quinsy or quinsey, is a recognized complication of tonsillitis and consists of a collection of pus beside the tonsil in what is referred to as Peritonsilar space (Peri - meaning surrounding). It is a commonly encountered otorhinolaryngological (ENT) emergency.[1]

Symptoms and signs[edit]

Unlike tonsillitis, which is more common in the pediatric age group, PTA has a more even age spread — from children to adults. Symptoms start appearing two to eight days before the formation of an abscess. Progressively worsening, unilateral sore throat and pain during swallowing usually are the earliest symptoms. As the abscess develops, persistent pain in the peritonsillar area, fever, malaise, headache and a distortion of vowels informally known as "hot potato voice" may appear. Neck pain associated with tender, swollen lymph nodes, referred ear pain and halitosis are also common. While these signs may be present in tonsillitis itself, a PTA should be specifically considered if there is limited ability to open the mouth (trismus). In short:

  • Severe unilateral pain in the throat;
  • Pyrexia (fever) above 103 degree F (39°C);
  • Unilateral earache;
  • Odynophagia and difficulty swallowing saliva;
  • Change in voice (muffled voice, thickened speech, “hot potato” voice);
  • Intense salivation and dribbling, foetor oris, halitosis;
  • Pain in the neck;
  • Malaise, headache, stiffness.

Trismus is common. Physical signs include redness and edema in the tonsillar area of the affected side and swelling of the jugulodigastric lymph nodes. The uvula may be displaced towards the unaffected side. Odynophagia (pain during swallowing), and ipsilateral earache also can occur.


PTA usually arises as a complication of an untreated or partially treated episode of acute tonsillitis. The infection, in these cases, spreads to the peritonsillar area (peritonsillitis). This region comprises loose connective tissue and is hence susceptible to formation of abscess. PTA can also occur de novo. Both aerobic and anaerobic bacteria can be causative. Commonly involved genera include Streptococcus, Staphylococcus and Haemophilus.


Treatment is surgical incision and drainage of the pus, thereby relieving the pain of the pressed tissues. Antibiotics are also given to treat the infection. Internationally, the infection is frequently penicillin resistant, so it is now common to treat with clindamycin.[2] Treatment can also be given while a patient is under anesthesia, but this is usually reserved for children or anxious patients. Tonsillectomy can be indicated if a patient has recurring peritonsillar abscesses or a history of tonsillitis. For patients with their first peritonsillar abscess most ENT-surgeons favour to "wait and observe" before recommending tonsillectomy.[1]



The condition Peritonsillar Abscess is also referred to as "quincy", "quinsy"[3] or "quinsey". These terms are Anglicised versions of the French word esquinancie which was originally rendered as Squinsey and subsequently Quinsy.[4]

Notable cases[edit]


  1. ^ a b Raut, VV (2000). "Management of peritonsillitis/peritonsillar.". Revue de laryngologie - otologie - rhinologie 121 (2): 107–10. PMID 10997070. 
  2. ^ Steyer TE (January 2002). "Peritonsillar abscess: diagnosis and treatment". Am Fam Physician 65 (1): 93–6. PMID 11804446. 
  3. ^ "PERITONSILLITIS (PERITONSILLAR CELLULITIS AND PERITONSILLAR ABSCESS)". Marx: Rosen's Emergency Medicine, 7th ed. Mosby, An Imprint of Elsevier. 2009. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  4. ^ Richard Gleason Greene (1890). The International cyclopedia: a compendium of human knowledge, Volume 12. Dodd, Mead. pp. 355–6. 
  5. ^ Juvaini, Ala-ad-Din Ata-Malik (1997). History of the World Conqueror. Manchester U.K.: Manchester University Press. p. 314. 
  6. ^ Wickman, Patricia Riles (2006). Osceola's Legacy. University of Alabama Press. p. 144. 
  7. ^ Montaigne, Michel de, Essays of Michel de Montaigne, tr. Charles Cotton, ed. William Carew Hazlitt, 1877, "The Life of Montaigne" in v. 1. n.p., Kindle edition.
  8. ^ Mount Vernon Plantation (2006). "Part 4. President and Back Home". Meet George Washington. Mount Vernon Ladies Association. Retrieved 2006. 
  9. ^ "Ordinary Boys reveal illness that caused V cancellation". August 21, 2006. Retrieved August 7, 2010. 
  10. ^ "NEWS: One Piece on Break". Viz Media. Retrieved 2013-05-21. 

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