Pediatric deep neck infections: Clinical description and analysis of therapeutic management

Arch Pediatr. 2022 Feb;29(2):128-132. doi: 10.1016/j.arcped.2021.11.011. Epub 2021 Dec 23.


Objectives: The aim of our study was to describe clinical presentations, bacteriological results, and therapeutic management in a pediatric population presenting with acute pharyngeal suppuration. A further aim was to identify clinical, bacteriological, and radiological predictors of success associated with exclusive medical treatment.

Method: A retrospective study was carried out including patients under 18 years of age hospitalized between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2017 in our center for acute pharyngeal suppuration. We identified three groups of patients: group A, treated with exclusive intravenous antibiotics; group B, surgically treated after 48 h of appropriate antibiotic therapy, due to persistent fever and/or clinical worsening and/or persistence of a collection on follow-up imaging; group C, surgically treated as first-line therapy in association with intravenous antibiotics. A total of 83 patients were included: 36 in group A, 12 in group B, and 35 in group C. These three groups were compared for several variables: age of the patients, polynuclear neutrophil counts, diameter of the collections (the largest diameter found on imaging), duration of antibiotic therapy, delay before return to apyrexia, and hospitalization duration.

Results: A neck mass and torticollis were present, respectively, in 48.8 and 47.6% of cases. No breathing difficulties were reported. Streptococcus pyogenes was the most frequently identified microorganism. The average diameter of the collections from patients treated surgically as first-line therapy (group C) was significantly larger than that of the patients treated with antibiotics (group A) (27.89 mm vs. 18.73 mm, respectively, p = 0.0006). All the patients who required surgery despite 48 h of appropriate antibiotic therapy (group B) had collections with diameters greater than or equal to 15 mm. There was no significant difference between the groups concerning hospitalization duration.

Conclusion: Exclusive medical treatment is associated with a high cure rate, mainly for collections with small diameter. We recommend special attention to patients treated with first-line exclusive intravenous antibiotic therapy and with a collection diameter greater than or equal to 15 mm.

Keywords: Parapharyngeal space infection; Pediatric deep neck infection; Peritonsillar abscess; Pharyngitis; Prestyloid abscess; Retropharyngeal abscess; Retrostyloid abscess; Suppurative lymphadenitis; Tonsillar abscess; Tonsillitis.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Fever / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Neck
  • Neck Pain / etiology*
  • Parapharyngeal Space / microbiology*
  • Peritonsillar Abscess
  • Retropharyngeal Abscess / microbiology*
  • Retropharyngeal Abscess / therapy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Staphylococcus aureus / isolation & purification*
  • Streptococcus pyogenes / isolation & purification*
  • Suppuration / drug therapy
  • Suppuration / microbiology*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents