The Public Health Impact of Pediatric Deep Neck Space Infections

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There is little consensus about the best management of pediatric deep neck space infections (DNSIs) and limited information about the national disease burden. The purpose of this study is to examine the health care burden, management, and complications of DNSIs from a national perspective.

Study Design

Retrospective administrative data set review.


National pediatric admission database.

Subjects and Methods

Pediatric patients diagnosed with a parapharyngeal space and/or retropharyngeal abscess were identified from the 2009 KIDS’ Inpatient Database. Patient demographic, hospital, and clinical characteristics were compared between patients who received surgical and nonsurgical management. All results for the analyses were weighted, clustered, and stratified appropriately according to the sampling design of the KIDS’ Inpatient Database.


The prevalence of DNSIs was 3444 in 2009, and the estimated incidence was 4.6 per 100,000 children. The total hospital charges were >$75 million. The patients who were drained surgically had a 22% longer length of stay (mean = 4.19 days) than that of those who were managed without surgery (mean = 3.44 days). Mean hospital charges for patients who were drained surgically were almost twice those of patients who were managed medically ($28,969 vs $17,022); 165 patients (4.8%) had a complication.


There are >3400 admissions for pediatric DNSIs annually, and they account for a significant number of inpatient days and hospital charges. A randomized controlled trial of management may be indicated from a public health perspective.

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