Trends in Emergency Department Computed Tomography Usage for Diagnosis of Peritonsillar Abscess

Ear Nose and Throat Journal
13 Jan, 2021 ,

Ryan Nesemeier et.al. conducted a study to determine whether patients unnecessarily undergo CT scans in the emergency department when presenting with sore throat and identify physical examination characteristics that predict Peritonsillar abscess. The researchers concluded that patients with severe symptoms of Peritonsillar abscess, including uvular deviation, drooling, and soft palatal fullness, were most likely to undergo CT imaging. Given the high likelihood of Peritonsillar abscess, patients presenting with these symptoms could forego CT imaging, reducing exposure to ionizing radiation.

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Objectives:

Peritonsillar abscess (PTA) is the most common deep neck space infection and a frequent cause for otolaryngology consultation. Patients often undergo computed tomography (CT) scan for confirmation in addition to physical examination. Our aims were to determine whether patients unnecessarily undergo CT scans in the emergency department (ED) when presenting with sore throat and identify physical examination characteristics that predict PTA.

Methods:

The electronic medical records of all patients (>18 years) presenting to an ED between June 2014 and June 2015 with a primary diagnosis of acute pharyngitis, acute tonsillitis, or PTA were reviewed for presenting symptoms and diagnostic imaging use.

Results:

Four hundred eight patients met inclusion criteria; 21 were diagnosed with PTA, including 13 based on history and physical alone. A total of 21 CT scans were ordered, 11 (52.3%) of which did not demonstrate abscess. Soft palatal fullness, uvular deviation, drooling, and muffled voice were all significantly associated with increased CT usage (all P values <.02). Rising subjective pain scores were associated with increased use of CT imaging (P = .029). Multivariable analyses revealed that soft palatal fullness, uvular deviation, and drooling were all significant predictors of PTA (all P values <.001).