Clinical evaluation of antibiotic regimens in patients with surgically verified parapharyngeal abscess: a prospective observational study

Tejs Ehlers Klug, Camilla Andersen, Pernille Hahn, Christian Sander Danstrup, Niels Krintel Petersen, Sophie Mikkelsen, Helle Døssing, Anne-Louise Christensen, Maria Rusan, Anette Kjeldsen, Thomas Greve

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


PURPOSE: We aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of different antibiotic regimens for the treatment of parapharyngeal abscess (PPA) and characterize patients, who suffered potentially preventable complications (defined as death, abscess recurrence, spread of infection, or altered antibiotic treatment because of insufficient progress).

METHODS: Sixty adult patients with surgically verified PPA were prospectively enrolled at five Danish Ear-nose-throat departments.

RESULTS: Surgical treatment included internal incision (100%), external incision (13%), and tonsillectomy (88%). Patients were treated with penicillin G ± metronidazole (n = 39), cefuroxime ± metronidazole (n = 16), or other antibiotics (n = 5). Compared to penicillin-treated patients, cefuroxime-treated patients were hospitalized for longer (4.5 vs 3.0 days, p = 0.007), were more frequently admitted to intensive care (56 vs 15%, p = 0.006), underwent external incision more frequently (31 vs 5%, p = 0.018), and suffered more complications (50 vs 18%, p = 0.022), including re-operation because of abscess recurrence (44 vs 3%, p < 0.001). Nine patients suffered potentially preventable complications. These patients displayed significantly higher C-reactive protein levels, received antibiotics prior to admission more frequently, underwent external incision more commonly, and were admitted to intensive care more frequently compared to other patients.

CONCLUSION: The majority of patients with PPA were effectively managed by abscess incision, tonsillectomy, and penicillin G ± metronidazole. Cefuroxime-treated patients were more severely ill at time of admission and had worse outcome compared to penicillin-treated patients. We recommend penicillin G + metronidazole as standard treatment for patients with PPA, but in cases with more risk factors for potentially preventable complications, we recommend aggressive surgical and broadened antibiotic therapy, e.g. piperacillin-tazobactam.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)2057-2067
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • Antibiotics
  • Complications
  • Evaluation
  • Management
  • Microbiology
  • Parapharyngeal abscess
  • Pharyngeal Diseases/drug therapy
  • Abscess/drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Metronidazole/therapeutic use
  • Tonsillectomy
  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents/therapeutic use


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