A retrospective study was undertaken of all patients admitted through the casualty department of St Mary's Hospital, London W2, with the diagnosis of peritonsillar abscess over a period of 4 years. Patients were divided into those in whom pus was aspirated from the peritonsillar swelling, and those in whom no pus was aspirated from the peritonsillar swelling. These two groups may be described clinically as peritonsillar abscess, and peritonsillar cellulitis respectively (Shoemaker et al., 1986). Relevant details from the history, examination, and investigations were recorded. The results were compared in order to determine whether there was any difference in the details recorded between those patients with pus aspirated, and those with no pus found. Of the 70 patients admitted with this diagnosis over the last 4 years, full data was available in 55 cases. Pus was found on routine needle aspiration of the peritonsillar swelling in 35(63%) cases. There was no pus found in 20(37%). There was no significant information recorded that would have predicted the presence or absence of pus in the peritonsillar space.
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