Retropharyngeal abscess

Case contributed by Ian Bickle


Pain on swallowing following perceived fish bone ingestion 4 days earlier. Known diabetic.

Patient Data

Age: 55 years
Gender: Female

Marked widening of the pre-vertebral soft tissue between C2 and C7, with multiple gas foci within at the C3-C4 level.

Annotated image

Annotations showing the normal width of the pre-vertebral soft tissue at the various cervical levels.

The annotated pathological images reveals the magnitude of the soft tissue widening.




Huge fluid-gas filled rim enhancing abscess in the retropharyngeal space.

Its extends over nearly the whole length of the cervical spine.

Case Discussion

Knowledge of the deep spaces of the neck is important, especially in the diagnosis and management of neck infections.

The surgical approach and patient outcome is determined by the space or spaces involved.

This case illustrates a large retropharyngeal abscess, which was subsequently surgically drained.

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