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A peritonsillar abscess is a collection of pus that forms in tissues around the tonsils. Although uncommon, it can occur as a result of strep throat. The abscess can cause severe pain and an inability to swallow, and you may become very ill.
A peritonsillar abscess may be diagnosed and treated with either a needle aspiration or a small incision. A needle aspiration is a procedure that uses a needle to drain the abscess. A course of antibiotics is given after the procedure. If a needle aspiration is not used, a peritonsillar abscess may be treated with a simple procedure in which a small incision is made in the abscess to drain it, followed by a course of antibiotics.
Surgery to remove the tonsils (tonsillectomy) may be done if you are concerned that the peritonsillar abscess will recur. But tonsillectomy is not needed if you've only had one abscess. Most people who have had an abscess do not have another one.
Last Revised: August 2, 2012
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Donald R. Mintz, MD - Otolaryngology
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