What is the most common complication of tonsillitis?

Updated: Apr 06, 2020
  • Author: Udayan K Shah, MD, FACS, FAAP; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
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The most common complication is adjacent spread just beyond the tonsillar capsule. Peritonsillar cellulitis develops when inflammation spreads beyond the lymphoid tissue of the tonsil to involve the oropharyngeal mucosa. Peritonsillar abscess (PTA), historically referred to as quinsy, is caused by purulence trapped between the tonsillar capsule and the lateral pharyngeal wall; the superior constrictor muscle primarily comprises the lateral pharyngeal wall in this area. Most often, PTA spreads into the retropharyngeal space or into the parapharyngeal space. Spread may result in necrotizing fasciitis. Treatment includes IV antibiotics, surgical debridement, and, in cases of associated toxic shock syndrome, possibly IV immunoglobulins. Distal abscess spread can be life threatening.

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