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Ten years of deep neck space abscesses

  • J Buckley (a1), A S Harris (a2) and J Addams-Williams (a3)



The incidence of deep neck space abscesses, which can result in significant morbidity and mortality, is rising. The aetiology is thought to be dental. However, this study suggests a reduction in tonsillectomies may be associated with the rise.


In a retrospective cohort study, patients were identified by a clinical code within one hospital over 10 years. Evidence of preceding infection source, management, lifestyle risks, comorbidities and demographics were extracted.


Fifty-two patients were included: 23 (44 per cent) had concurrent or recent tonsillitis; 11 (21 per cent) had poor dental hygiene; 22 (42 per cent) were smokers; and 9 (17 per cent) had diabetes. The incidence of deep neck space abscess cases increased from 1 in 2006, to 15 in 2015 (correlation value 0.9; p = 0.00019).


The incidence of deep neck space abscess cases is increasing. Risk factors include tonsillitis, smoking and dental infection. This paper adds to the growing evidence that deep neck space abscesses are increasingly related to tonsillitis, and questions whether the threshold for tonsillectomy has been raised too high.


Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: Miss J Buckley, Department of Otolaryngology, Ninewells Hospital, James Arrott Dr, Dundee DD2 1SY, Scotland E-mail:


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Miss J Buckley takes responsibility for the integrity of the content of the paper



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