Retropharyngeal abscess in children: The emerging role of group a beta hemolytic streptococcus

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BACKGROUND: Because of a recent increase in the number of cases of retropharyngeal abscess (RPA) admitted to our hospital, we reviewed the incidence, microbiology, and treatment outcome of RPA during an 11-year period (1993-2003). METHODS: A retrospective review of medical records of children with RPA. RESULTS: Sixty-seven children (46 males) with RPA were identified, representing a 4.5-fold increase in incidence over a previous 12-year period. The majority (66%) of patients presented during the last 4 years. Computed tomography revealed inflammatory or ring enhancing lesion in all patients. Abscess drainage was performed in 51 (76%) patients. A total of 101 isolates (84 aerobes, 17 anaerobes) were recovered from 41 specimens (a mean of 2.5 isolates per specimen). Group A beta hemolytic streptococcus (GABHS) was recovered from 22 (54%) of 41 specimens compared with 6 (35%) of 17 over the previous 12 years. Treatment included IV antibiotics: ampicillin/sulbactam or clindamycin plus either cefuroxime or ceftriaxone, followed by oral amoxicillin/ clavulanate or clindamycin. All patients recovered. CONCLUSIONS: RPA, an aerobic/anaerobic polymicrobial infection, is increasing in frequency and is associated with increased recovery of GABHS in our patients. Whether this rise in incidence is due to increased invasiveness of GABHS strains is to be determined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)927-931
Number of pages5
JournalSouthern Medical Journal
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2006


  • Group A streptococcus
  • Pharyngitis
  • Retropharyngeal abscess


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