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Volume 43, Number 1, February 2010

Deep Neck Infections in Different Age Groups of Children

Lung Chang, Hsin Chia, Nan-Chang Chiua, Fu-Yuan Huang, Kou-Sheng Lee

Received: December 31, 2008    Revised: February 10, 2009    Accepted: February 23, 2009   


Corresponding author:

Department of Pediatrics,Mackay Memorial Hospital, 92 Section 2, Chung Shan North Road, Taipei 10449, Taiwan.


Background and purpose: 

Deep neck infections (DNIs) can cause significant morbidity in children. This study analyzes the clinical presentations, diagnostic clues, and age relationship of DNI in pediatric patients.



Pediatric patients admitted to our hospital from January 1996 to December 2007 with a diagnosis of DNIs were reviewed retrospectively. Diseases were categorized according to the site of infection: peritonsillar, parapharyngeal, and retropharyngeal spaces. Patients were divided into two groups: children (aged < 10 years) and adolescents (aged 10–18 years).



Fifty pediatric patients were enrolled, including nine with DNI in the retropharyngeal space, 17 in the parapharyngeal, 21 in the peritonsillar and three with mixed type abscesses. A total of 21 patients belonged to the child group, and 29 were adolescents. All retropharyngeal abscesses occurred in children; whereas most peritonsillar abscesses (81%) were found in adolescents. Most retropharyngeal and parapharyngeal abscesses were associated with fever (100% and 65%, respectively) and neck masses (67% and 94%, respectively); while odynophagia was the most common symptom in peritonsillar abscess (100%). Thirtytwo abscess cultures were obtained and seven grew mixed pathogens, followed by Streptococcus pyogenes (n = 5), and normal flora (n = 5). Complications of airway obstruction arose in one patient with parapharyngeal abscess, and mediastinitis in another two patients with retropharyngeal abscesses. Recurrent DNIs were observed in six patients; three had congenital bronchogenic cysts.



The location of the DNI appears to vary in different pediatric age groups. Its insidious presentation, with a potentially complicated course, warrants careful inspection in children with fever and neck masses, especially young children.


Key words:

children, parapharyngeal abscess, peritonsillar abscess, retropharyngeal abscess