Lightning Learning: Peritonsillar Abscess

Lightning Learning: Peritonsillar Abscess

“Peritonsillar abscess (aka Quinsy) is a collection of pus in the peritonsillar space as a result of tonsillitis causing irritation.”
— advice is based on local guidelines & procedures


Peritonsillar abscess (PTA), aka Quinsy, is a collection of pus in the peritonsillar space.

Despite being the most common complication of tonsillitis, it is still relatively uncommon. PTA incidence peaks at 20-40 years old, and is uncommon in children in under 10 years old.

Patients can present with:

  • Severe sore throat

  • Trismus (muscle spasm preventing jaw fully opening)

  • ‘Hot potato’ voice

  • Uvula deviation away from affected side


It is generally believed that PTA is a result of tonsillitis causing irritation in the peritonsillar space, resulting in a pus collection.

Common causative organisms:

  • Fusobacterium Necrophorum (15-24 year-olds)

  • Group A Streptococcus (30-39 year-olds)

Risk factors include recurrent episodes of tonsillitis or partially treated tonsillitis episodes following multiple antibiotics. Smoking is a significant risk factor.


  • Teach Me Paediatrics: Peritonsillar Abscess
  • Definitive management includes aspiration and drainage (this depends on child’s age). Due to mixed causative organisms, antibiotics need to cover anaerobes and aerobes (e.g. Co-amoxiclav).

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