(1) To describe the demographic features and clinical course of children diagnosed with suspected peritonsillar abscess (PTA), (2) to determine the incidence of suspected and confirmed PTA in children younger than 18 years, and (3) to examine the factors associated with corticosteroid use and outpatient management of suspected PTA.
We conducted a population-based, retrospective chart review. The study was conducted within the Calgary Health Region (CHR). Patients met inclusion criteria if they were younger than 18 years, resided in the CHR, and were diagnosed with PTA (International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision 475) in the CHR between March 1994 and December 2001.
We identified 229 children (cases) who presented with 249 unique episodes of suspected PTA. The incidence of suspected PTA among children in the CHR was 14 cases per 100,000 person-years at risk. The incidence was highest among adolescents (40 cases per 100,000 person-years). The incidence of confirmed PTA was 3 cases per 100,000 person-years at risk. Among those with suspected PTA, surgical intervention, intravenous antibiotics, and corticosteroids were provided to 34%, 87%, and 37%, respectively. One hundred fifty-seven patients (69%) were initially managed as outpatients. Of these, 12 (8%) had subsequent uncomplicated hospital admissions.
Peritonsillar abscess is primarily a problem of adolescence, but the disease does occur in young children. Corticosteroid use was common but without either clear benefit or adverse outcomes. Two thirds of patients were managed as outpatients without any apparent increase in adverse outcomes.