How are tonsillitis and peritonsillar abscess (PTA) diagnosed?

Updated: Apr 06, 2020
  • Author: Udayan K Shah, MD, FACS, FAAP; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
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Tonsillitis and peritonsillar abscess (PTA) are clinical diagnoses. Testing is indicated when group A beta-hemolytic Streptococcus pyogenes (GABHS) infection is suspected. Throat cultures are the criterion standard for detecting GABHS. For patients in whom acute tonsillitis is suspected to have spread to deep neck structures (ie, beyond the fascial planes of the oropharynx), radiologic imaging using plain films of the lateral neck or CT scans with contrast is warranted. In cases of PTA, CT scanning with contrast is indicated.

Test the patient's family members for the presence of streptococcal antibodies to detect carriers of group A Streptococcus (especially family members who are immunocompromised).

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