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Peritonsillar Abscess


A peritonsillar abscess, or PTA, is a collection of pus in the peritonsillar space. The peritonsillar space is the area between your tonsil and the back wall of your throat. It is near the opening of the tubes leading to your stomach and lungs.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


Treatment for PTA may cause unpleasant effects. Medicines may cause itching, nausea, vomiting, or seizures. Sometimes, pus may need to be drained more than once. If left untreated, your problems could get worse and may be life-threatening. You may have trouble swallowing or be unable to eat and drink. Your airway may become blocked and cause breathing problems. The abscess may burst and the infection may spread to the rest of your body.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.


You may be given the following medicines:

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.

  • Medicines to treat pain, swelling, or fever: These medicines are safe for most people to use. However, they can cause serious problems when used by people with certain medical conditions. Tell caregivers if you have liver or kidney disease or a history of bleeding in your stomach.


You may need any of the following tests:

  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.

  • Needle aspiration: A needle will be used to take the fluid out of the abscess. The fluid is sent to a lab for tests. These tests may show what is causing your abscess.

  • CT scan: This is also called a CAT scan. A special x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your head and neck. You may be given dye through an IV before the pictures are taken. The dye may help your caregiver see the pictures better. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to shellfish or have other allergies or health problems.

  • Ultrasound: This is a test that uses sound waves to look inside of your mouth and throat area. Pictures are shown on a TV-like screen. This test will help caregivers see how big your abscess is.

Treatment options:

  • Incision and drainage: Your caregiver makes a cut in the abscess to allow the pus to drain. Ask your caregiver for more information.

  • Surgery: Your caregiver may want to remove your abscess completely. This may include removal of your tonsils. This may be done if other forms of treatment have failed or if your PTA is recurrent. Ask your caregiver for more information about surgery.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.