Comparison of needle aspiration versus incision and drainage under local anaesthesia for the initial treatment of peritonsillar abscess

  • C. MansourEmail author
  • G. De Bonnecaze
  • E. Mouchon
  • A. Gallini
  • S. Vergez
  • E. Serrano
Head and Neck



The treatment of peritonsillar abscess (PTA) is still controversial regarding the best method of drainage to perform. This study aims to compare effectiveness and safety of needle aspiration versus incision and drainage under local anaesthesia for the initial treatment of PTA.


A retrospective review of patients (age > 15 years) admitted in two tertiary medical centres for a PTA between November 2010 and October 2016 was performed. Patients were divided into two groups according to the type of drainage: needle aspiration or incision and drainage, under local anaesthesia. The primary outcome was the length of hospital stay; the need to repeat the procedure or to go to the operating room was also assessed. Complications or adverse events were listed in each group to assess safety.


Over a 6-year period, 182 patients were admitted for a PTA and included in the analysis, with 82 patients in the aspiration group and 100 patients in the incision group. Mean age was 36.3 years, with a sex ratio of 1.33. The length of hospital stay ranged from 1 to 7 days (mean 2.7 days, median 2 days) with a median length of stay of 3.0 days (interquartile range 2–4) in the aspiration group versus 2.0 days (IQR 2–3) in patients who underwent incision and drainage (p = 0.009). A repetition of the needle aspiration was made for 46.3% of patients versus 10% of repetition of the procedure in the incision group (p = 0.0001). 12 patients (14%) of the aspiration group and 4 patients (4%) of the incision group required an additional drainage under general anaesthesia (p < 0.001). We found no differences regarding safety in both groups.


Our study showed a significant decrease in the length of hospital stay in patients admitted for a PTA who underwent an initial incision and drainage under local anaesthesia, compared to needle aspiration, as well as a lower risk of repeating the procedure. A well-designed prospective and randomized study on a larger sample of patients is required to support these findings.


Peritonsillar abscess Quinsy Needle aspiration Incision and drainage Local anaesthesia 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest and received no funding concerning this article.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

For this type of study with retrospective design, formal consent is not required.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Service d’ORL et de chirurgie cervico-faciale, CHU de toulouse, hôpital LarreyToulouse cedex 9France
  2. 2.Service d’épidémiologieCHU de ToulouseToulouseFrance
  3. 3.UMR 1027 InsermUniversité Paul Sabatier Toulouse 3ToulouseFrance
  4. 4.Institut Universitaire du Cancer de ToulouseToulouse Cedex 9France

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