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Descending necrotizing mediastinitis secondary to retropharyngeal abscess

Marijan Kovačić ; Department of ENT and Head and Neck Surgery, Zadar General Hospital, Zadar, Croatia
Ivan Kovačić ; Department of Surgery, Zadar General Hospital, Zadar, Croatia
Boris Dželalija ; Department of Infectious Diseases, Zadar General Hospital, Zadar, Croatia

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Descending necrotizing mediastinitis secondary to a nontraumatic retropharyngeal abscess is very rare. This form of mediastinitis in the era of potent antibiotics often ends up with lethal outcome. It usually occurs in immunocompromised patients and requires intensive multidisciplinary treatment approach. We report a case of nontraumatic retropharyngeal abscess complicated by descending necrotizing mediastinitis in a 70-year-old man with insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. The patient was admitted to our hospital after clinical and radiological diagnosis of retropharyngeal abscess. During treatment for retropharyngeal abscess with antibiotic therapy and transoral incision, the patient showed mild clinical improvement but his condition suddenly aggravated on day 4 of hospital stay. He had high fever, chest pain with tachypnea, tachycardia, hypotension, and
showed signs of occasional disorientation. Emergency computed tomography (CT) scan of the neck and thorax showed inflammation in the retropharyngeal space, as well as thickening of the upper posterior mediastinum fascia with the presence of air. Emergency surgery including cervicotomy and drainage of the retropharyngeal space and posterior mediastinum was performed. The patient promptly recovered with improvement of the clinical status and laboratory findings. After 16 days of treatment he was discharged from the hospital in good condition. Descending necrotizing mediastinitis can be a serious and life threatening complication of deep neck infection if the diagnosis is not quickly established. Besides inevitable application of antimicrobial drugs, good drainage of the mediastinum is necessary. We believe that transcervical approach can achieve high-quality drainage of the upper mediastinum, especially if it is done timely as in this case. Its efficacy can be verified by intensive monitoring of the patient clinical condition, by CT scan of the thorax, and by laboratory tests. In the case of inefficacy of this type of drainage, subsequently some other, more aggressive transthoracic methods of drainage can be done.


Retropharyngeal abscess, Mediastinitis, Necrosis, Drainage, Case reports

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