UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Retropharyngeal Abscess

Keywords: Retropharyngeal Abscess, Neck Pain, Torticollis, Fever (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/16/2008 by Sean Fox, MD (Updated: 4/13/2024)
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Retropharyngeal Abscess

  • Retropharyngeal Abscess is primarily a disease of younger children
  • Origin may be medical or traumatic (ie running with popsicle stick in mouth).
  • Complications:
    • Airway compromise
    • Sepsis
    • Mediastinal extension or invasion into other local structures
  • Presentation:
    • Neck Pain – most common
      • Limitation of neck movement, especially neck extension
      • Torticollis
    • Fever
    • Sore throat
    • Neck mass
    • Respiratory distress, stridor – rarely
  • Consider retropharyngeal abscess in pt with fever and limitation of neck mobility even in the absence of respiratory symptoms.
    • Were you considering Meningitis (fever and neck pain) and the LP results are normal? Think of retropharyngeal abscess.


Craig, FW and Schunk, JE.  Retropharyngeal Abscess in Children: Clinical Presentation, Utility of Imaging, and Current Management. Pediatrics. 2003;111;1394-1398