A prospective study for the treatment of quinsy was undertaken between January 1989 and September 1991. This was to determine whether abscess tonsillectomy reduces inpatient stay without increasing operative risk compared to incision and drainage combined with interval tonsillectomy. Fifty-three patients were entered into the study. Twenty-one had abscess tonsillectomy and 32 had incision and drainage. This study showed that there is a 95 per cent probability that abscess tonsillectomy reduces hospital stay by between 2.04 and 4.84 (Student's t test t = 5.01; df = 31, p<0.001) days compared to incision and drainage followed by interval tonsillectomy. This is a significant saving in time and resources. Abscess tonsillectomy reduces patients lost to follow-up, avoids the social inconvenience of a second admission, effectively relieves symptoms, treats a contralateral abscess and is the only method of treating children with a quinsy. We recommend abscess tonsillectomy should be performed for quinsy where expertise and facilities are available.