Prognostic Factors for Retropharyngeal Abscess in Children Receiving Surgery or Antibiotic Therapy

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Effective management of retropharyngeal abscess (RPA) may predicate upon identification of key patient characteristics. We analyzed characteristics and outcomes of pediatric patients with RPA to identify prognostic factors associated with successful surgical intervention. Methods: A financial database was searched for pediatric otolaryngology patients with RPA from 2010 to 2021. Medical charts were reviewed for demographics, presenting history, physical examination, laboratory testing, imaging, surgical findings, and hospital course. Bivariate analyses were performed to identify potentially significant predictors of positive drainage. These variables were included in multivariate analysis of surgical outcomes. Results: Of 245 total patients, 159 patients (65%) received surgery and 86 patients (35%) received antibiotics only. Patients with restricted cervical motion, neck swelling, and computed tomography (CT) cross-sectional area (CSA) >2 cm2 were more likely to receive surgery. Rim enhancement on CT imaging was associated with positive surgical drainage (odds ratio [OR] 2.58, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.16–5.74). However, no variables from clinical symptoms or physical exam were associated with positive drainage. Variables that approached significance were included in multivariate analysis, which revealed only rim enhancement predicted positive drainage (OR 2.57, 95% CI 1.13–5.83). The mean length of stay (LOS) was 2.6 versus 3.5 days (p < 0.001) for medical vs surgical treatment groups, respectively. Conclusion: Our study revealed a high success rate of medical management. Although patient characteristics and clinical features were not significant predictors of surgical outcomes, CT findings such as rim enhancement were strongly associated with positive surgical drainage. Level of Evidence: 2 Laryngoscope, 134:1955–1960, 2024.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1955-1960
Number of pages6
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2024


  • parapharyngeal abscess
  • pediatric
  • prognosis
  • retropharyngeal abscess
  • surgery


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