Skip to Main Content

We have a new app!

Take the Access library with you wherever you go—easy access to books, videos, images, podcasts, personalized features, and more.

Download the Access App here: iOS and Android. Learn more here!

For further information, see CMDT Part 8-21: Peritonsillar Abscess & Cellulitis

Key Features

  • Results when infection penetrates the tonsillar capsule and involves the surrounding tissues

Clinical Findings

  • Peritonsillar abscess (quinsy) and cellulitis present with

    • Severe sore throat

    • Odynophagia

    • Trismus

    • Medial deviation of the soft palate and peritonsillar fold

    • Abnormal muffled ("hot potato") voice


  • Abscess may be confirmed by aspirating pus from the peritonsillar fold just superior and medial to the upper pole of the tonsil

  • A 19-gauge or 21-gauge needle should be passed medial to the molar and no deeper than 1 cm, because the internal carotid artery may lie more medially than its usual location and pass posterior and deep to the tonsillar fossa


  • Most commonly, patients present to the emergency department and receive a dose of parenteral amoxicillin (1 g), amoxicillin-sulbactam (3 g), or clindamycin (600–900 mg)

  • Less severe cases and patients who are able to tolerate oral intake may be treated for 7–10 days with oral antibiotics, including

    • Amoxicillin, 500 mg three times a day

    • Amoxicillin-clavulanate, 875 mg twice a day

    • Clindamycin, 300 mg four times daily

  • Methods for surgical management include needle aspiration, incision and drainage, and tonsillectomy

  • Some clinicians incise and drain the area and continue with parenteral antibiotics, whereas others aspirate only and monitor as an outpatient

  • To drain the abscess and avoid recurrence, it may be appropriate to consider immediate tonsillectomy (quinsy tonsillectomy)

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.