Retropharyngeal Abscess

A retropharyngeal abscess is an abscess that is located in the back of the throat. An abscessis an area infected by bacteria (germ) and contains a collection of pus.


On one or both sides of the back of the throat, an abscess usually causes:

  • Swelling.

  • Pain.

  • Tenderness.

  • Inflammation.

This is often accompanied by:

  • High fever.

  • Stiff neck.

  • Occasionally, difficulty breathing.


Diagnosisis often made by physical exam. Some times specialized x-rays are taken to aid in the diagnosis or give added valuable information.


The treatment of retropharyngeal abscess usually consists of:

  • Antibiotic medicines.

  • Surgical incision (cut by the surgeon).

  • Drainage (an incision is made over the abscess and the pus is drained out of the abscess).

Treatment is usually performed under general anesthetic with the patient sleeping. The airway must be protected from the pus being removed. It is very important that a retropharyngeal abscess be treated aggressively and followed closely because progression to more severe infection can lead to life threatening problems.


Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver.


  • You develop increased pain, swelling, drainage, or bleeding in the wound site.

  • You develop signs of generalized infection including muscle aches, chills, fever, or a general ill feeling.

  • You develop stiff neck or severe headache not relieved with medicines.

  • You have a fever.

  • You have a worsening of any of the problems that brought you to your caregiver.

See your caregiver as directed for a recheck, or sooner if you develop any of the problems described above. If antibiotics were prescribed, take them as directed.