Everyone has had a sore throat (also known as pharyngitis) at one point in their life. Often your sore throat will be caused by a viral infection – such as through a cold or the flu. In these circumstances, the sore throat will resolve on its own. However in some cases your sore throat is caused by a bacterial infection. These types of infections need treatment by antibiotics to prevent worsening symptoms and complications.
What Are The Symptoms Of A More Serious Throat Infection?
Symptoms of a sore throat include pain and scratchiness in the throat, difficulty swallowing, swollen or red tonsils, white patches or pus on your tonsils, and a muffled or “hot potato” voice. If not treated this infection can progress from a superficial infection and inflammation to cellulitis to a collection of pus called an abscess at the infection’s most advanced stage. Signs of abscess formation can include those similar to a throat infection plus pooling of saliva due to difficulty swallowing, neck swelling and trismus or locked jaw (the reduced ability to open your jaw).
The most common type of abscess, especially amongst children and adolescents, is a peritonsillar abscess. This is a collection of pus between the capsule of the palatine tonsil and the pharyngeal muscles of the neck. Physical examination of your neck can reveal a swollen or fluctuant tonsil, deviation of the uvula (the ball hanging structure at the back of your throat), or bulging of the soft palate (the roof of the throat near the ball hanging structure) near the tonsil. If it is unclear whether you have an abscess or cellulitis/inflammation a CT scan or ultrasound can be helpful in differentiating between the two. You can also have abscesses in different areas of the neck such as a retropharyngeal abscess, parapharyngeal abscess, or a submandibular abscess. In these cases, the swelling will be in different areas of the neck.
How Do You Treat An Abscess In The Throat Or Mouth?
The typical treatment for an abscess is drainage. This can be done through a needle aspiration – which involves using a needle and topical anesthesia to drain the abscess. If there is difficulty seeing the abscess needle aspiration can be performed with guidance by ultrasound. A more invasive procedure known as incision and drainage may be necessary instead. As the name suggests it involves making a small puncture in the skin which allows pus/fluid to escape by draining out through the incision. In other instances, if the abscess does not resolve through other drainage techniques, a tonsillectomy (when the palatine tonsils are removed from the throat) may be necessary.
It is important to diagnose and treat a neck abscess as soon as possible. Delayed treatment can lead to blockage of your airway, extension of the infection into deeper spaces of the neck, bacteremia, mediastinitis (irritation and inflammation of the chest wall surrounding your heart, trachea, and esophagus), sepsis with shock (a life threatening condition where the body’s response to the chemicals released into the bloodstream is out of balance leading to damage of your internal organs), aspiration pneumonia if the abscess ruptures in the airway, carotid artery rupture, necrotizing fasciitis (a serious bacterial infection that leads to tissue death), and internal jugular vein thrombosis. Because these complications are life threatening it is important that your neck infection is diagnosed and treated as soon as possible, especially if there is abscess formation.
Could I File A Claim For Complications From An Ear, Nose, or Throat Specialist?
Normally either a family physician or an ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT) will be treating your throat infection. Claims can involve a failure to diagnose a serious neck infection with abscess formation, or providing incorrect treatment – such as not draining an abscess. Likewise, there could be a claim for your doctor not considering a different course of treatment when conservative management does not improve you or your family member’s symptoms. Finally, there could be a claim for misreading or ignoring imaging studies, or not ordering imaging studies where circumstances warrant it.
In order to determine if you have a case it will require a thorough review of your medical records and consultation with medical experts. If you or a loved one suffered serious harm due to a mistreated throat infection, the medical malpractice attorneys at the Thistle Law Firm are here to take your call at 215-525-6824.