What is the pathophysiology of deep neck infections?

Updated: Apr 30, 2020
  • Author: Alan D Murray, MD; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
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Deep neck space infections can arise from a multitude of causes. Whatever the initiating event, development of a deep neck space infection proceeds by one of several paths, as follows:

  • Spread of infection can be from the oral cavity, face, or superficial neck to the deep neck space via the lymphatic system.

  • Lymphadenopathy may lead to suppuration and finally focal abscess formation.

  • Infection can spread among the deep neck spaces by the paths of communication between spaces.

  • Direct infection may occur by penetrating trauma.

Once initiated, a deep neck infection can progress to inflammation and phlegmon or to fulminant abscess with a purulent fluid collection. This distinction is important because the treatment of these 2 entities is very different.

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