What is the mortality and morbidity associated with retropharyngeal abscess (RPA)?

Updated: Jan 08, 2021
  • Author: Joseph H Kahn, MD; Chief Editor: Gil Z Shlamovitz, MD, FACEP  more...
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Once mediastinitis occurs, mortality approaches 25%, even with antibiotic therapy. Retropharyngeal abscess can also cause internal jugular vein thrombosis, carotid artery erosion, pericarditis, and epidural abscess. In addition to invasion of contiguous structures, retropharyngeal abscess can cause sepsis and airway compromise. [7]

Overall mortality rate was 1% in a review of deep cervical space infections in Taiwan. [26]

In a study of 234 adults with deep space infections of the neck in Germany, the mortality rate was 2.6%. The cause of death was primarily sepsis with multiorgan failure. [27]

In the United States, in 2003, a review of the Kids' Inpatient Database (KID) revealed 1321 pediatric admissions with RPA, with no fatalities. [28]

A case series from Children's National Medical Center in Washington DC presents 4 children of ages ranging from 8 months to 18 months with RPA who developed mediastinitis. All 4 were treated aggressively with antibiotics and surgical drainage of RPA, and 3 patients required thoracoscopic debridement. All 4 children survived without sequelae. [29]

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