Complications with Retropharyngeal Abscess in Children & its Treatment

Children often have abscesses because of exposure to infection and harmful bacteria. One of the most dangerous abscesses they can develop is one that develops at the neck’s retropharyngeal space. This type of abscess is dangerous because children can become asphyxiated from complications.

Retropharyngeal Abscess in Children

  • This disease is so named because of the anatomical position where the abscess can be located.
  • The retropharyngeal space is located posterior or behind the pharynx. The anterior border is the visceral fascia, the alar fascia is located posteriorly, and the carotid sheaths and parapharyngeal spaces laterally.
  • The retropharyngeal space extends upwards to the skull base and downwards to the mediastinum level of the tracheal bifurcation.
  • Other spaces in close proximity to the retropharyngeal space are the danger space and the prevertebral space.
  • This is an uncommon disease holds the potential to be a fatal condition.
  • This disease is often seen in adults than in children.
  • Correct and early diagnosis as well as immediate surgical management will help to prevent any potential complications from actually developing.
  • The disease has often been mistaken with retropharyngeal cellulitis.
  • Imaging studies will help best differentiate this type of abscess from any other similar conditions.
  • Confirmative tests include X-rays and computed tomography scans of the neck.
  • Symptoms of the disease include:
    • Difficulty when swallowing
    • Pain when swallowing
    • Fever
    • Neck lymph nodes enlargement
    • Muffled voice
    • Drooling
    • Stiff neck
    • Child appears to hold head at an angle
  • Causes include spread of bacteria from the tonsils, throat, adenoids, sinuses, nose, or even middle ear.
  • An injury to the back of the throat from a sharp object also causes abscess formation.

Retropharyngeal Abscess Complications

Complications arise from this type of abscess simple because of its anatomical locations and all the other possible areas of importance that surround it.

  • Bleeding around the abscess
  • Rupture of the abscess blocking the airway
  • Pneumonia
  • Spasm of the larynx
  • Formation of blood clots in the jugular veins in the neck
  • Spread of infection to the chest
  • Organ malfunction from widespread infection and inflammation of the bloodstream or septic shock

Retropharyngeal Abscess Treatment

  • Surgery is the first line of treatment for this disease in order to fully prevent complications from happening.
  • Surgical drainage is a recommended procedure.
  • Aggressive antibiotic therapy is also a mainstay treatment for this type of abscess.
  • Prognosis from prompt treatment is very good.

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