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Peritonsillar abscess, is also called PTA, Quinsy, Quincy, Quinsies, it is a recognised complication of tonsillitis and consists of a collection of pus beside the tonsil (peritonsillar space).

PTA / Quinsy usually arises as a complication of an untreated or partially treated episode of acute tonsillitis. The infection, in these cases, spreads to the peritonsillar area (peritonsillitis). This region comprises loose connective tissue and is hence susceptible to formation of abscess. PTA can also occur de novo . Both aerobic and anaerobic bacteria can be causative. Commonly involved species include streptococci , staphylococci and hemophilus.

Symptoms and signs

Unlike tonsillitis, which is more common in the youngest age group, PTA / quinsy has a more even age spread from children to adults. Symptoms start appearing 2-8 days before the formation of abscess. Progressively worsening unilateral sore throat and pain during swallowing usually are the earliest symptoms. As the abscess develops, persistent pain in the peritonsillar area, fever, malaise, headache and change in voice (hot potato voice) may appear. Neck pain associated with tender, swollen lymph nodes, referred ear pain and breath odour are also common. Whilst these signs may be present in tonsillitis itself, a PTA should be specifically considered if there is limited ability to open the mouth ( trismus ).

Physical signs include redness and edema in the tonsillar area of the affected side and swelling of the jugulodigastric lymph nodes. The uvula may be displaced towards the unaffected side.


Treatment is, as for all abscesses, through surgical incision and drainage of the pus, thereby relieving the pain of the stretched tissues. The drainage can often be achieved in the Outpatient Department using a guarded No. 11 blade in an awake and co-operative patient. Sometimes, a needle aspiration can suffice. Antibiotics are also given to treat the infection.

Peritonsillar abscesses are widely considered one of the most painful complications, primarily the surgical draining of the abscess itself. The patient is operated on awake, surgically slicing open the tonsil and draining the abscess.


  • Parapharyngeal abscess
  • Extension of abscess in other deep neck spaces leading to airway compromise
  • Septicaemia

quinsy, quincy, quinsies, PTA

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