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Large Retropharyngeal Abscesses in an Immunocompetent Adult Patient with Disseminated Tuberculosis

Gerardo Amaya-Tapia, Arturo Rodríguez-Toledo, Sergio Aguilar-Benavides, Guadalupe Aguirre-Avalos

(Division of Infectious Diseases, Hospital General de Occidente, Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico)

Am J Case Rep 2016; 17:690-693

DOI: 10.12659/AJCR.899090


BACKGROUND: The retropharyngeal abscess is a rare presentation of head and neck tuberculosis. The pathogenesis of the abscess formation in the retropharyngeal space in the adult is controversial.
CASE REPORT: We report a case of large retropharyngeal abscesses in a 46-year-old man with disseminated tuberculosis. The patient had severe progressive dysphagia, weight loss, and a slowly enlarging bilateral cervical mass during a period of three months. His posterior pharynx wall was bulging and red, and both tonsils were enlarged and congested. The neck had an abscess of 5 cm in diameter that was firm, tender, and warm along the left sternocleidomastoid muscle. Palpable bilateral lymphadenitis was detected in the submandibular, cervical, axillary, and inguinal regions. A computed tomographic (CT) scan of the neck revealed large bilobulated retropharyngeal abscesses. A liver ultrasound showed multiple hypoechoic lesions. A Ziehl-Neelsen smear for acid-fast bacilli was positive from different abscess samples, and mycobacterial cultures subsequently yielded Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Antituberculous therapy was begun and the retropharyngeal abscesses were aspirated by external incision with complete drainage and relief of symptoms.
CONCLUSIONS: Large retropharyngeal abscess is a rare entity in which Mycobacterium tuberculosis etiology should be considered, especially in endemic countries, and the diagnosis may be difficult because symptoms and signs are influenced by abscess size and time of onset, or if the etiology is not suspected.

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