Which physical findings are characteristic of a retropharyngeal abscess (RPA) in adults?

Updated: Jan 08, 2021
  • Author: Joseph H Kahn, MD; Chief Editor: Gil Z Shlamovitz, MD, FACEP  more...
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Patients with retropharyngeal abscess may present with signs of airway obstruction, but often they do not. Individuals who do not exhibit signs of airway obstruction initially may progress to airway obstruction. The most common presenting signs may be different for adult and pediatric patients.

  • Physical signs in adults

    • Posterior pharyngeal edema

    • Nuchal rigidity

    • Cervical adenopathy

    • Fever

    • Drooling

    • Stridor

    • Torticollis [2]

    • Trismus [2]

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