A neck abscess is a collection of pus from an infection in spaces between the structures of the neck. As the amount of pus increases, the soft tissue spaces expand and push against the structures in the neck, such as the throat, tongue, and, in extreme cases, the trachea (windpipe). Neck abscesses are sometimes called cervical abscesses or deep neck infections.
There are several types of neck abscesses that are found in children, including the following:
A neck abscess occurs during or just after a bacterial or viral infection in the head or neck such as a cold, tonsillitis, sinus infection, or otitis media (ear infection). As an infection worsens, it can spread down into the deep tissue spaces in the neck or behind the throat. Pus collects and builds up in these spaces forming a mass. Sometimes, a neck abscess occurs following an inflammation or infection of a congenital (present at birth) neck mass such as a branchial cyst or thyroglossal duct cyst.
The following are the most common symptoms of a neck abscess. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of a neck abscess may resemble other neck masses or medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.
Generally, diagnosis is made by physical examination. In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for a neck abscess may include the following:
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