Disparities in the Presentation and Management of Pediatric Retropharyngeal Abscess

Dante J. Nicotera, Aseeyah A. Islam, Yupeng Liu, Kate Dunsky, Judith E.C. Lieu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Differences in management and outcomes of otolaryngologic diseases may reflect inequities driven by social determinants of health. This study aimed to investigate disparities in presentation and outcomes of retropharyngeal abscess (RPA) among 231 pediatric patients. Methods: Medical records were searched for pediatric patients with RPA from 2010 to 2021. Charts were reviewed for demographics, clinical features, and treatment decisions. Area deprivation index (ADI) scores for patient zip codes were determined. Chi-square analysis independent samples t-test, and regression analyses were used to investigate associations between variables. Results: Among patients presenting for RPA, Black patients were less likely to undergo surgical management than non-Black patients (53.2% vs. 71.6%, p = 0.009). Black patients had a lower rate of treatment with antibiotics prior to hospital admission (19.4% vs. 54.4%, p < 0.001). Among patients who received surgery, Black patients had higher cross-sectional abscess area on CT (6.4 ± 8.4 cm2 > vs. 3.8 ± 3.3 cm2, p = 0.014), longer length of stay (5.4 ± 3.3 days vs. 3.2 ± 1.5, p < 0.001), and longer time between admission and surgery (2.3 ± 2.1 vs. 0.83 ± 1.1, p < 0.001). Increased ADI was correlated with increased rate of trismus. Conclusions: Lower rates of pre-admission antibiotics and larger abscess area on CT imaging among Black patients may suggest disparities in access to primary care, resulting in presentation to tertiary care at later stages of disease and higher rates of medical management trial prior to surgical intervention. Level of Evidence: 3 (retrospective cohort study) Laryngoscope, 134:1907–1912, 2024.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1907-1912
Number of pages6
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2024


  • Area Deprivation Index
  • health disparities
  • health equity
  • pediatric otolaryngology
  • retropharyngeal abscess
  • social determinants of health


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