Peritonsillar abscess is a collection of infected material in the area around the tonsils.
Quinsy; Abscess - peritonsillar
Peritonsillar abscess is a complication of tonsillitis. It is most often caused by a type of bacteria called group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus.
Peritonsillar abscess most often occurs in older children, adolescents, and young adults. The condition is rare now that antibiotics are used to treat tonsillitis.
One or both tonsils become infected. The infection most often spreads to behind the tonsil. It can then spread down into the neck and chest. Swollen tissues can block the airway. This is a life-threatening medical emergency.
The abscess can break open (rupture) into the throat. The content of the abscess can travel into the lungs and cause pneumonia.
Symptoms of peritonsillar abscess include:
Fever and chills
Severe throat pain that is usually on one side
Difficulty opening the mouth, and pain with opening the mouth
The infection can be treated with antibiotics if it is caught early. If an abscess has developed, it will need to be drained with a needle or by cutting it open. You will be given pain medicine before this is done.
Sometimes, the tonsils will be removed at the same time the abscess is drained. In this case, you will have general anesthesia so you will be asleep and pain free.
Peritonsillar abscess goes away with treatment in most cases. The infection may return in the future.
Ashutosh Kacker, MD, BS, Professor of Clinical Otolaryngology, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Attending Otolaryngologist, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.