Peritonsillar Abscess (PTA)

A peritonsillar abscess, also known as a PTA, is collection of pus that is formed behind the tonsils. Unlike tonsillitis, which is more common in children, a peritonsillar abscess occurs just as frequently in adults as it does in children. Profile photo of woman - PTA


A peritonsillar abscess forms as a result of another infection, such as tonsillitis or mononucleosis; tooth or gum infections have also been known to cause them. The infection will spread from the infected area to the area behind the tonsils. Since the peritonsillar area is comprised of loose connective tissues, it is more susceptible to the formation of an abscess.

People who smoke are more likely to develop an abscess.


The most common symptom of a PTA is a severe sore throat; the sore throat will be worse on one side. Additional symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Trouble swallowing.
  • Difficulty speaking.
  • Ear pain.
  • Tender or swollen lymph nodes.
  • Foul breath.


In order to treat a peritonsillar abscess, the pus must be removed. The pus can be drained via a few different methods.

First, the skin around the abscess is numbed. Then, your doctor will either remove the pus with a needle or by making a small cut in the abscess so the pus can drain out. Surgery to remove the tonsils may be recommended if you have had tonsil infections or abscesses in the past.

Once the pus is removed, the pain and other symptoms will resolve. Antibiotics may be prescribed to ensure the infection completely goes away.

Contact Sacramento Ear, Nose & Throat for more information or to schedule an appointment.