Retropharyngeal abscess with mediastinal extension

Case contributed by Dr Mostafa Mahmoud El Feky


Fever, chest pain.

Patient Data

Age: 40
Gender: Female

CT neck and upper chest

Air tracking in the neck along the left retropharyngeal space and left anterior cervical spaces which continues with the superior and posterior mediastinum to the infra-carinal region (T6) wrapping around the trachea and oesophagus forming dependent air-fluid levels and showing marginal enhancement.

Case Discussion

This case demonstrates retropharyngeal abscess with inferior extension into the mediastinum resulting in mediastinitis with abscess formation. Extension to the mediastinum is believed to be through the Danger space. When encountering the possibility of a retropharyngeal abscess, it is important to search for a pharyngeal foreign body (like impacted fish bone).

It is considered a surgical emergency with high mortality rate. It can be primarily from structures in the mediastinum (often as a result of iatrogenic injury) or may result from an infection extending downward from the oropharynx, in which case it is called descending necrotizing mediastinitis (DNM). 

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Case information

rID: 53181
Published: 31st May 2017
Last edited: 23rd Jan 2018
Inclusion in quiz mode: Included

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