An evidence-based review of the treatment of peritonsillar abscess

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2003 Mar;128(3):332-43. doi: 10.1067/mhn.2003.93.


Objective: Peritonsillar abscess (PTA) is commonly seen but still controversial. We performed an evidence-based review to answer 3 questions: Are steroids beneficial? Which is the best technique for acute surgical management? When is tonsillectomy indicated?

Study design: We performed a MEDLINE search of the published literature using appropriate search terms to identify pertinent articles, which were reviewed and graded according to the evidence quality.

Results: Forty-two articles were analyzed. There are no published studies on steroids in PTA. There were 5 level I clinical studies on surgical technique, which indicated that needle aspiration, incision and drainage, and quinsy tonsillectomy are all effective for initial management. The overall PTA recurrence rate is 10% to 15%.

Conclusions: Overall, grade C evidence indicates that several methods of initial surgical drainage are equally effective, and the recurrence rate is low. The literature does not specifically address different treatments for children and adults.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drainage
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Peritonsillar Abscess / drug therapy
  • Peritonsillar Abscess / surgery*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Recurrence
  • Tonsillectomy
  • Treatment Outcome